Eyewitness account: ‘Doomsday’ in Abbas Town

Published: March 4, 2013

“It’s like doomsday to me. I saw people burning to death and crying with pain," says an eye witness. PHOTO: Express/Mohammad Noman.

KARACHI: 

Raging fires on multi-storey apartment buildings, wailing ambulances, sobbing victims and scurrying rescuers – Abul Hassan Isphahani Road looked like a war zone, literally.

It looked as if warplanes have bombed the neighbourhood. Debris littered the roads and alleyways, blood was splattered all over as rescuers frantically sifted through the smouldering rubble to look for survivors.

As firemen made desperate efforts to douse the flames engulfing two apartment buildings – Iqra City and Rabia Flower – balconies of flats crumbled and collapsed, adding to the heaps of rubble on the road.

“The massive explosion shook the entire area,” said a visibly shaken witness, Ali Reza. “Flats and nearby shops caught fire after the blast.”

Two dozen flats in Iqra City and 19 in Rabia Flower were destroyed. Similarly, over 70 shops in the neighbourhood were no longer there.

A popular eatery, Akhtar Pakwan Centre, was also among the shops destroyed in Rabia Flower. At the time of the blast, its proprietor Akhtar Ali Zaidi was sitting outside his shop, while eight workers – all of them Sunnis, were busy cooking inside.

The blast was so powerful that the nine mutilated bodies were recovered from the ground floor of Rabia Flower, a resident said. “His brother, Safdar Ali Zaidi, broke into tears as he stumbled out of his car and saw the destruction,” he added.

Amidst death and destruction, crying women and children dug through the rubble with bare hands to search for their loved-ones in the absence of required machinery.

“It’s like doomsday to me. I saw people burning to death and crying with pain. I saw children lying in pools of their own blood and women running around shouting for their children and loved ones,” said Mariam Bibi.

Edhi and Chhipa rescuers, aided by young residents, pulled out the bodies – some of them charred beyond recognition – from the rubble and shifted them to the city’s hospitals.

The neighbourhood descended into utter chaos – police and paramilitary Rangers were nowhere to be seen. None of the senior officials of local administration and police visited the site – perhaps they feared a backlash reaction from the targeted community.

Later it transpired that most of the city’s police force was deployed at Mohatta Palace to ensure a trouble-free engagement ceremony of Sindh’s young politician Sharmila Farooqi.

It was also learnt that the Karachi police chief, Squadron Leader (retd) Iqbal Mehmood, was away — holidaying with his family in Canada. Sources said Mehmood sent his family to Canada because he feels the city is not safe.

Three hours after the tragedy struck, explosives experts drove in to determine the nature of the blast. By the time vital evidence at the site might have been lost.

Ironically, it’s the same Abbas Town where a bomb had exploded three-and-a-half months ago. Two people were killed and 18 injured when a bomb strapped to a motorcycle was detonated on November 18.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2013.

on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook

Reader Comments (18)

  • Yoghurt lover
    Mar 4, 2013 - 3:43AM

    Every time there is a blast in Pakistan, we indians should realize that it could have been us and be more and more vigilant.

    Hope the wounded are treated fast and well.

    Recommend

  • Yoghurt lover
    Mar 4, 2013 - 3:58AM

    Why are you people saying that this was targeted at Shias? Looks to me that more Sunnis have died.

    Recommend

  • Khan Bhai
    Mar 4, 2013 - 6:49AM

    Karachi police chief, Squadron Leader
    (retd) Iqbal Mehmood, was away —
    holidaying with his family in Canada.

    I have no words to describe my feelings.

    Recommend

  • Adnan
    Mar 4, 2013 - 8:32AM

    @Yoghurt lover: Its a Shia majority area with a Shiite mosque near the site of the attack. And no, most of the victims (read: children and women) are Shia. Just can’t believe that after all this people still argue how many of the dead are Shia and how many are Sunni – disgusts me!

    Recommend

  • M. A. Changezi
    Mar 4, 2013 - 9:00AM

    @Yoghurt lover:
    Because Abbas town is where Shias live?

    Recommend

  • M. A. Changezi
    Mar 4, 2013 - 9:01AM

    @Yoghurt lover: It is because Abbas town is where Shias live?

    Recommend

  • Haider
    Mar 4, 2013 - 9:03AM

    Lawlessness..! where is justice and law? when is CJ? a national shame.!!

    Recommend

  • anon
    Mar 4, 2013 - 9:19AM

    Why do we keep saying Shia, Sunni, Balochi, Sindhi, Punjabi, Pathan etc – we are all Pakistani’s – why this segregation on basis of sect/region all the time. How do we expect to prosper when we cannot agree we are all ONE?

    Recommend

  • Praful R Shah
    Mar 4, 2013 - 10:08AM

    My heartfelt sympathy to families who died or injured. Why killing an other human?

    Recommend

  • Deneb
    Mar 4, 2013 - 10:38AM

    Just curious about claim in this article – claiming “Later it transpired that most of the city’s police force was deployed at Mohatta Palace to ensure a trouble-free engagement ceremony of Sindh’s young politician Sharmila Farooqi.: The fact is her engagement had taken place on the 24th at her own residence and this was reported in the newspapers and other social networks. One should try to investigate the real reasons for the city police not coming to the blast scene instead of regurgitating rumors.

    Recommend

  • Ali
    Mar 4, 2013 - 10:55AM

    @Yoghurt lover:
    Becuase the area is predominantly Shia area with an imam bargah close to the bomb site.

    Recommend

  • Shameema
    Mar 4, 2013 - 2:22PM

    When I heard of the blasts in Hyderabad, India last week I had a fearful premonition that something bad was going to happen in Karachi.

    Recommend

  • ABC
    Mar 4, 2013 - 8:02PM

    Karachi police chief, Squadron Leader
    (retd) Iqbal Mehmood, was away —
    holidaying with his family in Canada.

    How is it his fault that the bomb blasts took place when he was in Canada for a vacation?

    Recommend

  • Stranger
    Mar 4, 2013 - 8:20PM

    I am surprised, its nearly 48 hours after this blast and so far no one has pointed their finger at India or the Taliban for this .They are the usual suspects for whatever happens wherever in Pak. Well some one did mention the Taliban from Punjab but it was just one statement .

    Recommend

  • Dadageer
    Mar 4, 2013 - 10:05PM

    I have no words to describe my feelings. I am not in the country but I share the same pain which my countrymen are going through. I just cannot understand how this all started and when this is going to end. I make no difference between shia and sunnis as they are all muslims and Pakistanis. I myself being a sunni muslim could not sleep last night after this incident. I think there is a third force in action which is trying to destabilize Pakistan by creating a rift on sectarian line. I see the similarities of what is happening in Pakistan and what happened in Iraq after Saddam was killed. If you remember, in those days every single day there were blasts in shia localities and then a blast in sunni areas as if someone mercurially designed the whole plan. I think same forces, which were active there in Iraq and yes I mean Uncle sam, are now active in Pakistan. We all need to be very watchful as we have unfortunately become a part of a very evil conspiracy.

    Recommend

  • Mahine
    Mar 4, 2013 - 11:43PM

    @Yoghurt lover:
    Does it matter whether it was Sunnis or Shias? Innocent Pakistanis lost their lives. Lets stop focusing on the differences and lets start focusing on developing a common front – as human beings and as Pakistanis.

    Recommend

  • Sajida
    Mar 5, 2013 - 12:43AM

    It is very clear how it started. It is being funded by ME Wahabis. This is well known public information. Poison is spreading with petrodollars. They have just been in pakistan longer as they arrived with anti-Soviet Afghan War.
    http://www.france24.com/en/20120929-how-saudi-arabia-petrodollars-finance-salafist-winter-islamism-wahhabism-egypt
    How Saudi petrodollars fuel rise of Salafism
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/05/wikileaks-cables-saudi-terrorist-funding
    WikiLeaks cables portray Saudi Arabia as a cash machine for terrorists
    http://dawn.com/2011/05/22/saudi-arabia-uae-financing-extremism-in-south-punjab/
    Saudi Arabia, UAE financing extremism in south Punjab
    See also:
    http://www.globalsecurity.org/security/library/congress/2003_h/030626-alexiev.htm

    Recommend

  • Morons
    Mar 6, 2013 - 3:30PM

    @anon: You cannot force shut our eyes. And No!! we are not ONE, but the sooner you realize the sooner we can unite ourselves to be ONE.

    Recommend

More in Pakistan