Anguish turns to relief as missing pilgrim found in Jeddah hospital

Shahina Palanpuri

Shahina Palanpuri

As relatives, friends and diplomats continue to search for dozens of pilgrims missing since Thursday’s stampede in Mina, one Indian couple, who had been separated during the accident, had a difficult reunion on Tuesday.

Imtiaz Palanpuri and his wife Shahina, from Ahmedabad, had arrived with a private tour operator for this year’s Haj. On Thursday, the two found themselves caught up in the crush of pilgrims on Street 204 where the stampede claimed hundreds of lives.

In the confusion, the husband and wife were separated. Twenty-four hours later, when Imtiaz, who is in the real estate business in India, opened his eyes he found himself in Al-Noor Hospital. He was badly injured. The first thing he asked the attending nurse was about his wife, Shahina. When he was told no one knew where she was, he rushed out of the hospital, forgetting his own injuries.

His desperate search began near Street 204 in Mina where they were separated but there was no sign of her. He then went to all the hospitals in and around Mina where the injured were taken for treatment but to no avail.

With a great deal of trepidation, he went to the mortuary in Mina but was relieved to find that she was not among the 1,100 dead people whose photographs were on display.

Back home in India, the couple’s relatives were devastated. Trying to help, they called a few relatives in Jeddah but drew a blank. Their only son, 17-year-old Saud, was in a state of shock and refused to come out of his room in their family home in Ahmedabad.

Not knowing what to do, Shahina’s cousin, Anzar Dhattiwala, 32, went onto Twitter using his handle @AnzarDhattiwala and searched for possible clues. “That is when I came across your tweet in which you mentioned that 161 people injured in the stampede were being treated at Jeddah hospitals,” Dhattiwala told Arab News on the phone from India.

“Your tweets about the list of hospitals in Jeddah really helped us. They raised our hopes. All along we were searching for Shahina in Mina and Makkah hospitals. As soon as we knew that many injured had been taken to Jeddah hospitals, our hopes soared.”

Armed with this information, Imtiaz searched for Shahina at the hospitals in Jeddah, and found her in the East Jeddah Hospital where four injured were brought from Mina for treatment.

“He visited her on Tuesday evening,” said Dhattiwala. “Doctors at East Jeddah Hospital told him that the next 48 hours are very crucial for her. She remains critical.”

Dhattiwala said Shahina’s entire family is relieved at having found her. “We have heard of miracles. Today, we have experienced one ourselves. Now, we are praying for her complete recovery and their safe return home,” he said.

Family members in Ahmedabad, India, expressed relief on hearing the news of Shahina Palanpuri’s discovery in a hospital in Jeddah on Tuesday.

Family members in Ahmedabad, India, expressed relief on hearing the news of Shahina Palanpuri’s discovery in a hospital in Jeddah on Tuesday.


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