KARACHI: Five doctors, working at top management positions in their districts, were among the 12 people who lost their lives in the tragedy at Regent Plaza Hotel on Monday.
All five men were staying at the hotel, with some visiting Karachi to attend a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) meeting, while others were to attend a week-long training organised by the Expanded Program for Immunization (EPI) for the district health officers (DHOs) of Sindh and Balochistan at Regent Plaza Hotel. However, one of the doctors was staying at the hotel for some personal reason. Three of the five doctors were DHOs.
Umerkot DHO Dr Mohan Tilwani, one of the victims, had asked his wife to give him call in the wee hours of Monday so that he could wake up for the UNFPA meeting. “He called his wife the day before the incident and they spoke for around 20 minutes,” Kumar Tilwani, Dr Mohan’s cousin, told The Express Tribune.
“All of Mohan’s family members in Umerkot were shocked when he called again at 3am, crying for help,” said Kumar, adding that Mohan informed his family about the incident, saying that there was severe suffocation and he could not find a way to escape.
Kumar said that Mohan called again and told them that he was trying to save his life but could not find the exit.
According to the family, Mohan, whose room was located on the second floor of the hotel, called his wife for the third time while attempting to escape the fire. “I am trying to go down. I am getting in the lift,” said Mohan on his third call to his wife. However, he got trapped at the mezzanine floor.
After that, Mohan did not attend his phone. “We called him repeatedly, but all in vain. Someone from the hospital called us around 6am and informed about his death,” said Kumar.
Mohan worked as a medical officer at a taluka hospital in Pithoro for a long time and served as Taluka Health Officer in Pithoro, Samaro and Kunri. He was posted as DHO two months ago. After his body was handed over to the family, his final rituals were held at a local cremation.
Mir Alam Jamali who was working at a senior position in Civil Hospital, Badin, was also among the victims of the fire. After reaching Karachi, he called his family from a landline number to inform them that he had lost his mobile in Karachi and, therefore, could not be reached on his personal mobile phone. Jamali, who belonged to Talhar Town of District Badin, has left a wife, two daughters (who are also doctors) and a son to mourn his death.
Another victim, 58-year-old Jamshoro DHO Dr Sher Ali Khawaja, had reluctantly gone to Karachi to attend the training organised by EPI. He was believed to be a very good presenter. However, Dr Gulzar Jumani, an elder cousin of the deceased, told The Express Tribune that Khawaja had been avoiding too much activity since after a cardiac surgery that he had had last year. But Khawaja insisted that he should attend the event at Regent Plaza, said Dr Jumani. The deceased was the focal person of the immunisation programme in Jamshoro’s district health office.
Khawaja, a nephew of well-known scholar Dr Ghulam Ali Allana, lived in Ameenabad Colony, Hyderabad. According to Dr Jumani, who also practises in Hyderabad, the deceased will be laid to rest today (December 7) in their ancestral village, Tarh Khawaja, in Jati taluka of District Sujawal.
The body has been kept at Aga Khan University Hospital’s mortuary as the family is awaiting the arrival of one of Khawaja’s brothers who lives in Canada. The deceased is survived by a wife, son and daughter.
The fourth victim, Dr Mohammad Hassan Lashari, 57, was the DHO of Jhal Magsi, Balochistan, since 2013 and was known for his humanitarian and social work. According to the reports from Gandawah, the district headquarter of Jhal Magsi, Lashari was one of the best doctors in the district and apart from performing his duty as the DHO, he also used to run a private clinic in Gandawah. Dr Lashari has left five sons, three daughters and a widow in mourning. He was also among those who had come to Karachi to attend EPI’s week-long training. He will be buried in his native graveyard in village Pachch.
The fifth doctor who fell victim to the fire was Dr Rahim Bux Solangi, an associate professor of medicine at Shaheed Benazirabad Medical University, Nawabshah.
Dr Tanveer Kundhar, belonging to Naushero Feroz, was also supposed to attend a meeting in the hotel, but he was not able to come.
“Dr Solangi was staying in the hotel because of a personal matter. His brother was not well so he had come to see him,” said Kundhar, adding that he [Dr Kundhar] was among the lucky people who had postponed their programme.
Meanwhile, health secretary Usman Chachar told The Express Tribune that more than 40 top health officials were invited to the meeting organised by UNFPA and the Sindh health department where they had to review the performance of projects that were being run in various districts.
“So far, we have received the information of five doctors who have passed away,” said Chachar, adding that the government is considering announcing a compensation amount for the victims’ families.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2016.