Dubai bus crash: Families devastated, survivors horrified
Dubai - The tragedy that claimed 17 lives was one of the worst in Dubai.
The extended Eid Al Fitr holiday turned tragic for friends and families of 17 individuals who had lost their loved ones in one of the worst traffic accidents the UAE has witnessed in recent times.
Devastated families and friends who lost their loved ones in an accident spent Thursday night and Friday morning attempting to identify the mortal remains of their loved ones at the Forensics Department, Dubai Police Headquarters. Till Friday evening, 13 victims were identified by their relatives.
Survivors recounted the horror - the screams of the victims, blood-splattered seats, body parts strewn around, as the kin of the deceased wept for their loved ones, their lives torn to shreds by the bus accident.
Twelve of the deceased were Indians. All have been identified while one Pakistani national's name is known. The identities of the other four victims are yet unknown and respective embassy officials are doing their best to ascertain their identities.
Nidhin Laji, one survivor escaped almost unscathed. Police earlier said the bus took the wrong exit in Rashidiya and struck a maximum-height signboard that fell and ripped through the left side of the vehicle. "I heard screams of the people sitting on that side," said Nidhin who was on the right side of the bus. He heard screams and gasps for breath. Blood and flesh were all over the seats as the metal plate scythed through the vehicle, he said. He slipped through one of the doors as ambulances and police vehicles reached the spot.
Manisha Thakur, whose husband Vikram and cousin Roshni were on the bus, was crying inconsolably at the Al Rashidiya Police Station. The 24-year-old was lucky to be alive as she did not travel with her husband to Oman during the Eid break due to some pending work in Dubai. In another corner of the police station, a grief-stricken Anoop waited to get the paperwork done for his dead friend Kiran Johnny.
A total of 17 people died and nine others were severely hurt when a tourist bus crashed into a road height restriction barrier in Dubai on Thursday. The barrier was 2.2 metres high, and vehicles above that road restriction cannot travel on the road. The Oman-registered bus is operated by Mwasalat, a government-owned company founded in 1972, and was used to transport passengers between Dubai and Muscat.
Jamaludeen Arakkaveettil, an employee of a Dubai- based media firm, was among those who were killed in the accident. According to Jamal's colleagues, he had travelled to Oman to visit a friend as his wife and daughters reside back home in Kerala.
His colleague said: "We saw him last week before the holidays began. He wished Eid Mubarak to everyone, shook our hands, and left." Efforts are underway to repatriate his mortal remains back to India.
Another victim of the accident was Vikram Thakur whose wife Manisha was present at Rashidiya Police Station on Friday afternoon. "Manisha is inconsolable in her grief," said their colleague Siddharth. Vikram travelled to Oman with Manisha's cousin Roshni Moolchandani.
Dubai residents and father and son Ummer CP (65) and Nabil CP (65) were both killed in the accident. Their nephew Fawad and Nahmishaad CK had driven down from Abu Dhabi to identify their bodies. The family had travelled to Muscat to spend Eid with Ummer's daughter.
Tragically, Fawad was seen at the Dubai forensics department, waiting to repatriate his uncle and cousin's mortal remains. He told Khaleej Times: "Identifying the bodies were painful and very difficult. It was terribly mutilated."
Police monitor situation closely
The Dubai Police and Mwasalat said in their respective statements that a total of 15 people died on the spot, and 16 were rushed to the hospital. Two more died later, raising the total death toll to 17. Six passengers received treatment for injuries, with one being critically injured. Eight passengers were treated and discharged.
Mwasalat's statement said four bodies were handed over to families by missions and authorities are coordinating with other missions to help their citizens in need as well.
The bus, E05 was travelling along Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Road, carrying 31 passengers, when it crashed into a signboard at an exit near Al Rashidiya Metro Station at 5.40pm. The driver could not see the barrier due to a makeshift sun shield (curtain) which was installed in the bus. He entered a road restricted to heavy vehicles, causing impact with the height restriction bar.
Major-General Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, Commander-in-Chief of the Dubai Police, urged drivers to pay attention while driving. "Sometimes a minor error or negligence during driving leads to serious consequences," he said. The General Directorate of Dubai Police extended its sincere condolences to the families of the deceased in the unfortunate incident.
Mwasalat cancels bus service
Mwasalat issued a statement on Twitter announcing the suspension of their daily E05 services between Muscat and Dubai, and vice versa, until further notice. The service provider confirmed that the E05 service, which ran daily services, has been taken in coordination with the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) in Dubai.
The statement said: "Mwasalat family expresses its deepest condolences to the families of the deceased and wishes a speedy recovery to the injured." On Friday, Mwasalat confirmed there was German, Irish, Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Omani nationals in the bus. Indian nationals were the highest in number, and a total of 12 Indian deaths took onboard the bus.
Police officials also revealed the bus was being driven over the speed limit of 40kmph. The left-hand side of the bus roof was completely destroyed in impact, and passengers seated in the right-hand side escaped relatively unhurt. The bus driver, an Omani national, has sustained serious injuries and is presently hospitalised.
An official from the Pakistani Consulate in Dubai has confirmed the death of one Pakistani National, identified as Shafeeq. The official said he had travelled to Oman to renew his UAE visa. Unverified reports also revealed a second Pakistani national may have also been killed in the accident. Pakistani consulate officials are closely monitoring the situation.
Indian community in mourning mobilises to help their kin
The passengers of the bus from Oman that met with an accident in Dubai included a mix of residents and holidaymakers of Asian and European origin. However, a total of 12 Indians were killed in the horrific bus crash, according to the Consul-General of India to Dubai, Vipul. He said four Indians were discharged after receiving treatment at the Rashid Hospital.
External Affairs Minister of India Dr S Jaishankar also expressed his condolences on Twitter. "Deeply grieved by the unfortunate bus accident in Dubai that has claimed 12 Indian lives. My sincere condolences to the families. Our consulate is extending all help."
Vipul confirmed that the total deaths of Indians are 12. He told Khaleej Times: "Our teams have been working with the respective Dubai government departments to ensure paperwork is completed as soon as possible." Repatriations of bodies are expected to begin on Saturday, said Vipul. Consulate officials have been placed at Al Baraha Hospital, Al Rashidiya Police Station and Sheikh Rashid Hospital.
Vipul told Khaleej Times that consulate officials are taking all necessary steps to ensure repatriation formalities of all victims are completed as soon as possible. "Once death certificates are issued, the bodies will be sent for embalming and other procedures," he said.
Death certificates of seven Indian national accident victims were issued by Friday evening. Five certificates will be issued tomorrow, said social workers handling the case.
Officers from the consulate and the consul-general himself were present on the scene (Rashid Hospital, forensics department) since Thursday night. Social worker Naseer Vatanappally and several other social workers are working with the consulate to complete formalities relating to the issue of death certificates and other repatriation- related formalities.