x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Parents' grief over Bangladeshi Al Ain crash victims

Father accompanies bodies of his two sons home to Bangladesh.

Heartbroken Hasina Begum and Mohammed Idris Mian lost their two sons in last week's bus and lorry crash in Al Ain. The brothers, Mohammed Khorshedul Alam, 28, and Mohammed Masud Rana, 23, from Raozan, Bangladesh, were among 21 men killed in the smash. Silvia Razgova / The National
Heartbroken Hasina Begum and Mohammed Idris Mian lost their two sons in last week's bus and lorry crash in Al Ain. The brothers, Mohammed Khorshedul Alam, 28, and Mohammed Masud Rana, 23, from Raozan, Bangladesh, were among 21 men killed in the smash. Silvia Razgova / The National

RAOZAN, BANGLADESH // The parents and friends of two brothers killed in the Al Ain road smash have spoken of their grief at their loss.

The bodies of Mohammed Masud Rana, 23, and Mohammed Khorshedul Alam, 28, were escorted back to their home village of Raozan from the UAE yesterday by their devastated father, Mohammed Idris Mian.

After hearing of their loss, “I called my wife”, he said yesterday. “I told her I was bringing them both home in coffins. She collapsed mid-conversation.”

Mr Mian, 55, has worked in the Emirates for nearly 30 years at a dairy farm in Al Ain, sending home Dh600 a month to support his two sons, daughter Roozin Akhtar, wife Hasina Begum and his disabled younger brother, Muktar Husain.

Alam also came to the UAE to work six years ago, with Rana following last February in the hopes of improving the family’s fortunes.

But Mr Mian returned to Bangladesh on Sunday without his children, a broken man in mourning.

“I wanted my children to live,” he said, sitting in his three-room mud-floored home made from tin and bamboo, which Alam had hoped eventually to replace with brick and cement. “Now what?”

The brothers were among 45 men travelling on a bus that collided with a lorry in Al Ain on February 4, killing 21 in one of the UAE’s worst road accidents.

News of the crash spread quickly, with frantic phone calls in Raozan and to Al Ain, which went unanswered as the death toll increased.

Finally, a list of the victims was released. By then, a few men had gone to collect Mr Mian from the farm to identify Alam and start the paperwork to transport the body back to Bangladesh.

No one could bring themselves to tell him his youngest child and second son, Rana, was also among the dead. “At first they told me he was injured,” Mr Mian said.

“We didn’t think he could handle the news,” said Mohammed Salahuddin, a cousin who works for an air-conditioning company in Dubai who travelled back with Mr Mian.

The grieving father only learnt of Rana’s passing on Saturday when asked to give a final signature identifying himself as next of kin.

In Raozan, in the Chittagong district, banners featuring photographs of the brothers hang between trees alongside condolence messages from friends and family.

On their graves lay roses and marigolds that will blossom over the year. There are wreaths, mostly from Rana’s friends.

Fond memories of their life in the village are recalled by all.

Both were fans of badminton and cricket, with Rana going out every evening to play the former.

“I would have to drag him home,” said his mother, Mrs Begum.

Alam’s high-school teachers remember him as a good student.

“He was a little absent-minded but he did well, especially in maths,” said Amir Ahmad Anwari, the principal.

Alam’s last visited the village about a month ago, when he presented Mr Anwari with a goat worth 7,000 taka (Dh330).

“He said, ‘feed this to the poor children you support and pray for me as I begin my journey to Abu Dhabi again’,” said Mr Anwari.

“I felt proud knowing that we had succeeded in instilling the right values in him.”

When Alam first arrived in the UAE he earned Dh1,500 a month as a painter and decorator.

“Alam did well, he said he had learnt a lot so he wanted to take Rana with him,” Mr Mian said. “My time was up, I was getting ready to retire.”

The brothers’ jobs in the UAE were supposed to provide a financial cushion to let their father return home.

“My husband did everything he could to bring up his children,” Mrs Begum said. “They thought it was time he returned to me.”

Instead, the family’s future is uncertain. They have debts to pay, including Dh27,000 from their daughter’s wedding two years ago and the cost of sending Rana to the UAE.

“The agents are not supposed to take money but they still do,” said Ahmad Husain, Mr Mian’s cousin,  who runs a shop in the village.

The family should get compensation of at least Dh18,000, although Mr Mian fears Rana may not qualify because he had worked in the UAE for less than a year.

Mr Husain said his cousin was now known as the man “who has touched happiness from time to time but has never fully experienced it”.

Mr Mian left his home just eight days after marrying his wife, returning a year later from Qatar.

He spent three years working as a day-wage labourer, during which time his wife gave birth to two daughters. Because they had no money for hospital bills, both girls were delivered at home and neither survived.

Alam was just six months old when Mr Mian left home again, hoping to give his family a better life from the UAE. He will return to his job in Al Ain next week.

sbhattacharya@thenational.ae