On a bus about 100 km from Hyderabad, around 5 a.m. on Wednesday, 43-year-old Syed Hafeez was woken by the morning azaan (call to prayer) on his mobile phone. The alarm was a reminder for the first of the five times he prayed every day. A few minutes later, the Jabbar Travels Volvo bus caught fire, killing 45 passengers.
Mr. Hafeez, a scrap dealer from Yarab Nagar here, was among the lucky handful that survived. “I heard the sound of what seemed like an explosion and then smelled something burning. The next thing I remember was the bus cleaner’s cries of ‘Fire!’ as he tried to wake the sleeping passengers, asking them to jump out of the bus. Immediately, I rushed towards the door of the bus and jumped out even before the bus could stop,” he recalled.
That he was already awake, and the fact that he usually chooses to sit in the first row, seems to have been providential.
His jump left him with slight injuries, and he took a while to regain consciousness. “I was woken up after a while and given water. Later, I managed to get on a vehicle heading to Kurnool. I then boarded a bus from Kurnool to travel back to Bangalore.
Mr. Hafeez, a frequent traveller on Jabbar Travels buses, was on his way to buy scrap in Hyderabad. He lost Rs. 5 lakh cash he was carrying in the fire, but the money is the least of the family’s concerns. “I had asked my father to pray for my business to be successful. But now I am more grateful to god that I managed to escape,” he said.
45 per cent burns
B.K. Yogesh Gowda, a coach at a golf club in Hyderabad, was another one of the survivors. He escaped with 45 per cent burns, for which he is being treated in hospital. He was in Bangalore on holiday for a week.