BAHAWALPUR: An air gloom dominated the whole Bahawalpur region as the death toll from the oil tanker fire rose to 174.
Families of victims were forced to grieve over the loss of loved ones on Eid, while locals decided that the festive holiday would be observed with austerity and restraint. Relatives of the victims also had to go through the traumatic ordeal of identifying the charred remains of loved ones and so far, 49 bodies have been returned to the families. DNA tests have been taken to identify the rest of the victims.
According to Bahawal Victoria Hospital Bahawalpur sources, DNA samples of 117 family members have been collected and 107 injured were being treated at various hospitals across Punjab.
Muhammad Afzal, a resident of Bahawalpur, tells The Express Tribune that his family was sent into a state of shock when they heard about the incident. “We are in mourning and decided not to celebrate Eid.”
Aun Raza, another Bahawalpur local, says nobody in his household wore the new clothes they had bought for Eid and the occasion was observed with austerity.
Muhammad Imran of Ahmadpur East says it is indeed a sad day for the district as 174 lives were lost. “It was with a heavy heart that we went to see the families of the victims and shared their grief on the day of Eid.
Bilal Khan, meanwhile, says his family had planned lots of fun activities for the holiday, but all plans were cancelled to ensure that Eidul Fitr is spent in the simplest manner possible.
Allah Diwaya, who lost his cousin and sister-in-law in the blazing inferno, says the incident made his family completely forget that it was Eid. “The atmosphere is one of sorrow and there is not a dry eye in the family.”
The incident took place on the day before Eidul Fitr and even the joy associated with the most festive day on the Muslim calendar could lift the spirits of locals. Also, the district government cancelled events planned for the day, while special prayers were offered for the departed souls at mosques across the region.
Funeral prayers of 125 of the deceased were offered at Basti Ramzan Joyia in Ahmadpur East after which they were laid to rest in a mass grave in Basti Nazeerabad. The bodies were buried in wooden caskets which were marked according to the DNA tests.
The funeral prayers were attended by Senator Chaudhry Saood Majeed, Federal Education Minister Engineer Baligur Rehman, parliamentarians Ali Hassan Gilani, Qazi Adnan Fareed and Dr Syed Wasim Akhtar, District Council Chairman Sheikh Dilshad and other prominent personalities. The bodies were taken to Ahmadpur East in 17 trucks and ambulances.
Earlier on Wednesday, the families of 26 of the identified deceased were given cheques worth Rs2 million rupee each at the Bahawalpur Circuit House.
While addressing with the cheque distribution ceremony, Provincial Minister Malik Muhammad Iqbal Channar and Federal Minister Engineer Baligur Rehman said the Ahmadpur East’s incident had deeply affected the entire nation.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2017.