May 9, 2002

Several players escape serious injuries

Seven members of Pakistan cricket team escaped serious injuries when the huge sliding glass windows shattered into pieces and were strewn all over their hotel rooms after Wednesday's bomb blast.

Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Akhtar, Saeed Anwar, Rashid Latif, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Wasim Akram and Mudassar Nazar were lodged on fourth floor's rooms whose windows opened facing the road where the disaster occurred.

Such was the impact of the explosion that the rooms almost turned upside down. Furthermore, the giant-sized mirrors in the bathrooms were also broken besides other damages to the valuables.

The worst sufferer was Shoaib as the entire furniture in his room jammed the door, leaving the terrified fast bowler locked inside. It needed more than 10 minutes and some four players and a couple of security officials to break down the door.

While some of the players were saved by the heavy curtains, others were in the restaurant having breakfast.

Inzamam and Saqlain Mushtaq had more reasons to be shell-shocked as their pregnant wives were staying with them. The duo later rushed their spouses to a nearby hospital for precautionary check-ups. Much to their relief, all was well.

Rashid Latif had the narrowest of escapes and credited his laziness for saving him. "I went to the bathroom to prepare myself for prayers. When I came out, I thought of opening the curtains but decided otherwise and switched on the lights. As I began my prayers, I heard the massive explosion. Had I opened the curtains, the pieces of glass probably would have inflicted serious injuries," the wicket-keeper said.

Rashid said he was devastated and scared with the events that unfolded later. "Sometime later when I regrouped myself, I watched down from my broken window. It looked like hell had broken out there. Remembering the scenes makes me scary."

Inzamam said he and his wife, who is expecting next month, were also saved by the huge curtains.

"My wife and I were sitting near the window with my son sleeping. And suddenly there was a loud bang that could have deafened anyone. "My immediate reaction was that I picked my son, held my wife and evacuated the room. The corridor was full of smoke and fire alarms were ringing. We were safely guided to the lobby by the security personnel," he said.

A visibly shaken, Inzamam added: "I had only heard how it felt like when bomb explodes. But today I faced the reality. I don't think I will ever forget this day."

Pakistan captain Waqar Younis said he was changing when the bomb exploded. He said he ran downstairs and was probably one of the few to reach the scene of the incident first. "I was dumbfounded. For a second, I thought I had no life in me because there were mutilated bodies on the road and the injured screaming for help. "But as I regained my composure, I realized that emergency services had arrived. I couldn't take any more and I returned to the hotel lobby. But I am still in a state of shock," he said.

Shahid Afridi said: "I ducked to avoid the glass pieces that were flying over me. It was complete madness and for a moment, I thought I was in a bunker and in the middle of a war.

"I have never feared any fast bowler but today it seemed that the world's quickest bowlers were hurling grenades from 10 yards and I was without any safety guards."

The entire New Zealand squad was safe but their liaison officer Fahimuddin Alvi collapsed with shock as he was in hotel's parking lot - less than 100 metres from the scene of the incident - making final arrangements for the visitors departure to the National Stadium when the bomb went off. He was initially suspected to have suffered a heart attack but was later given all-clear. He was, however, in a shocking frame of mind.