KARACHI: A roof collapse inside Jama Masjid Usman near Landi Kotal Chowrangi in North Nazimabad claimed six lives on Friday afternoon.
“It happened just after the Friday prayers,” said Abdul Hamid, one of the mosque’s muezzins. “Thank God it did not happen during the Friday prayers as there would have been more losses of life due to the large number of worshippers in the mosque.”
The muezzin estimated that the incident took place around 15 minutes after the Friday prayers, at around 2:15pm, when some people were offering Sunnah prayers.
“Soon after I raised my hands to say ‘Allah-o-Akbar’, the roof collapsed with a loud bang, narrated Humayun Khan. “For a while, it seemed that someone attacked the mosque with a bomb, as human limbs and blood could be seen on the floor, while the entire mosque echoed with screams and shouts of the injured,” he recalled.
Some parts of the over 40-year-old mosque had been under construction for the last one-and-a-half-years. The accident occurred in the mosque’s courtyard, which is located between two construction sites and has a capacity to host over 1,500 worshipers.
“A temporary sun shade and a wall fell on the courtyard area of the mosque, which caused the casualties,” said District Central SSP Muqaddas Haider. “The fans hanging in the courtyard proved to be deadly.” He said that it was currently being investigated how the wall collapsed and whether it was due to the strong wind or some other reason.
Six worshipers lost their lives and nearly half-a-dozen others were wounded in the tragic incident. Sixty-year-old Faisal Yaqoob and his son Abdul Rafay, 22, were among those who lost their lives in the tragedy. Following the accident, rescue teams and volunteers pulled worshipers from the rubble and shifted them to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital for autopsies and medical treatment.
A large number of worshippers and neighbours gathered at the scene, however, Rangers and police dispersed the crowd as they were making space way for rescue workers.
According to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital additional police surgeon Dr Rohina Hasan, four bodies were brought to the hospital, while two victims died during treatment, bringing the death toll to six.
Muhammad Saleem passed away within five minutes of treatment, while Rafiullah passed during treatment in the surgical intensive care unit four hours after the incident.
Commenting on the injuries of all six worshipers who died in the incident, Dr Hasan said that all of them sustained blunt force trauma to their heads and chests. She added that the six injured victims brought to the hospital have minor injuries and will be discharged as soon as they are stabilised.
Families gathered in the mortuary as they came to claim their loved ones’ bodies. The daughter of one of the victims cried as she stared at her father’s corpse, asking her brother why it took so much time to bring their father to the hospital for first aid.
She said they received news of the incident an hour after it took place via a news channel. The family rushed to the hospital, only to find that their father had died during treatment.
The family members of another victim said, “It’s a very tragic incident for the entire family and we can’t even believe that our loved ones are no more with us.”
Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah has sought a report into the incident from the Karachi commissioner. He asked how prayers were conducted and worshippers allowed in a mosque which was under-construction.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2016.