JEDDAH: ESSAM AL-GHALIB
Published — Friday 6 July 2012
Last update 6 July 2012 8:10 pm
Mirza Hamid Baig was traveling to Riyadh from Dammam on the ill-fated passenger train that crashed 80 km outside Riyadh on June 27. Moments before the crash happened, he knew something was terribly wrong as the compartment he was in began to shake violently. When the unimaginable happened, he found himself in the midst of a major disaster. He sent the following to ireport@arabnews.
“I traveled by train from Dammam to meet my manager in Riyadh. I was sitting in REHAB class seat 19. It was sunny at 8:59 a.m., so I kept the curtain of my window drawn to stop the light from coming in.
“Suddenly, I felt extreme vibrations in the train that became more and more violent every millisecond. I grabbed the seat in front of me tightly with both arms as I had a feeling there was going to be a crash. That’s when the train started to topple on its right side, dragging across the sand. The noise was frightening. Everything was rattling and crackling and women and children were screaming.
“While the compartment was still dragging and falling, my immediate response was to loudly recite the Shahada (an affirmation of faith, in which Allah is proclaimed as the one and only God and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is His messenger) as I thought I was going to die.
“Within seconds, the train came to a rest on its side. Thanks to Allah the sand did not allow the train to drag along a further distance and acted as a cushion. The engine car and the cargo compartment in front of us came quickly to a stand still.
“As soon the train stopped dragging, the compartment was filled with dust through the broken windows on the bottom.
“I could feel that I had no injuries and was able to stand up. I collected my belongings, and hung my bag around my neck and shoulder. Then I started to see if I could help others in difficulty. There was panic everywhere.
“On one side, there were families with young children and babies. Male members of their family were helping them. Others were helping elderly people.
“Personal belongings like mobile phones and baby items, shoes and clothes were scattered everywhere. I tried to find the people the items belonged to.
“Luckily, there was a construction site or something similar very close to the scene. Some people immediately came from there within few minutes and tried to break the windows to rescue people. The broken windows helped to alleviate the suffocating heat in the cabin.
“Most of the passengers were making their way out. I tried to gather as many items from the train to find the people they belonged to. I found some loose bags and put in all the items I found. It took me around 20-25 minutes to come out of the toppled compartment.
“I found many passengers scattered along the side of rail track with some injuries but definitely most of them in a state of shock.
“I saw that the engine had derailed along with the cargo carriage. The carriage I was in was partially on the track but was toppled to the right side. The rest of the train derailed but stayed upright.
“Then I saw another, newer train on the other track which was waiting there and the staff started to move the passengers from our train to the new one. Once all or most of the passengers were moved to the new train it started its journey to Riyadh. While leaving, I noticed that there were some ambulances taking care of the injured passengers.
“Later during the journey I opened my laptop and found the text file I was working on seconds before the crash, frozen on the screen. I saw the time on the laptop screen was 08:59, the time when the accident occurred and due to some damage to the computer, it froze on that time.
“Finally the new train reached Riyadh safely. Emergency staff personnel were waiting to receive the injured passengers and provide them with health care.”