x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Family and friends of Al Ain crash victims fear the worst

Friends and relatives of the workers feared dead in the crash crowded outside the doors of the morgue at Al Ain Hospital all day, desperate for any news of their loved ones.

Friends, family and co-workers wait outside the Al Ain Morgue, at the Al Ain Hospital, for news about the deceased. Antonie Robertson / The National
Friends, family and co-workers wait outside the Al Ain Morgue, at the Al Ain Hospital, for news about the deceased. Antonie Robertson / The National

AL AIN // Fearing the worst was bad enough, but it was the not knowing that gnawed at their guts.

As news of the tragedy spread yesterday, they came in their crowds to the morgue at Al Ain Hospital, the families, the friends, the colleagues. There was barely concealed panic as they desperately sought answers, but there was dread, too, at what those answers might be.

One young man held up a picture of his uncle Arif, smartly dressed in a red shirt. He knows his uncle was a passenger on that bus and the young man fears his uncle has died. But the fear is not yet certain knowledge.

Near by, another man is looking for two brothers, also on the bus but unaccounted for.

One group of three men already know the worst: their relative, Mohammed, 42, from Bangladesh, is dead. He worked in the UAE for eight years, and leaves a widow and three children.

As day turned to night, the owner of the company the victims worked for uses the dim light from his mobile phone to study a print-out of the bus passenger list.

Men crowd round, looking for names they know, hoping not to find them.

"They told us to come back tomorrow for information," says one man. "We are not getting anything."

More than three dozen men continued to crowd outside the entrance to the morgue late last night, most having waited there since morning for information. They were refused entry by police and security guards for most of the day.

The constantly growing group of men had received only a trickle of information by last night, most of which had come from the internet. Shortly before 9pm, they were told by police and security to disperse; after a day of emotion, they obliged.

Earlier in the day, at the scene of the crash, Al Rawda Palace on the outskirts of Al Ain, workers spoke of the incident.

Minil Kumar, a bus driver from India, said: "I dropped all workers in the morning to the palace and parked my bus in front of the palace, then suddenly I saw the collision.

"The old Al Ain Truck Road has only one lane for each side and there are no speed brakers or radars, so motorists, particularly in the saloon cars and four-wheel drives, speed up as per their will, which leads to such accidents."

The road has a speed limit of 80kph but people drive at 120kph, he said.

Dhanraj Bhakhshi, from Nepal, who works on the opposite side of the road from the palace, said: "In the morning I heard a sound like a blast then I rushed to the scene.

"I found bodies in pools of blood and they were laid down on the corner of the road.

"The truck was shattered into pieces and the entire concrete from the lorry was on top of the bus."

Zeeshan Sameera, from Sri Lanka, was also at the scene. "It was a horrific accident," he said. "I could not reach immediately but I heard the sound then rushed to the place. At that time I was working."

Fellow Sri Lankan Suranga Jaigodi said: "I think it all happened due to high speed and lack of attentiveness while driving."

Some workers later said that they were afraid of travelling on the buses.

"I am afraid of travelling on the bus but what I can do? We have to take it," said Badar Kamal, from Bangladesh.

"Our lives are in the drivers' hands and we travel believing in God's mercy," said Bangladeshi Sadiq Ali.

Countryman Mohammed Suhail said every day they venture out at 6am when there is fog but no allowances are made for it, as they have to get to work on time.

zalhassani@thenational.ae

anwar@thenational.ae