Muscat: A 28-day-old baby boy, his two-year-old brother and four-year-old sister are among the missing members of an Indian family whose car was swept away in a flooded wadi.
The entire extended family - except for dad Sardar Fazal Ahmed - are feared dead after a day trip to a scenic wadi ended in tragedy.
Speaking exclusively to Times of Oman, Sardar recounted the final moments when he last saw his family - including his own parents - and pleaded with everyone in Oman to heed safety advice given by the authorities.
Sardar, a pharmacist who has been working in Oman for two years, managed to grab a palm tree branch and pull himself out of the fast-flowing waters in Wadi Bani Khalid, near Ibra.
His parents, Khan and Shabana, his wife Arshi, daughter Sidra, 4, son Zaid, 2, and newborn infant son Nooh, were all swept away.
His parents had flown from India to join him in Oman, after the birth of his baby boy and were due to fly home today. Rescue teams have located the mangled wreckage of the hire car they drove to Wadi Bani Khalid. Until now, there has been no trace of Sardar’s family.
Dedicated rescue teams are searching day and night, but with every passing hour hopes are fading that the family will be found safe. Sardar, an Indian expatriate who works as a pharmacist at the Ibn Al Haitham Medical Centre in Ibra, said: “It was a very sunny day, so I thought it was going to be a hot day.
As soon as we reached the wadi, it started becoming cloudy and a few drops were falling. “As soon as we parked the car, we saw some people moving in a hurry to move from there, but we took it easy, and I didn’t realise the consequences. We just tried to avoid the rain, for about 10 minutes. If it was too much, we would go back, we agreed. But as we continued to wait there, the rain became really strong, and an Omani warned us that this was a really dangerous place so we needed to leave."
"We decided to move the car uphill, but there was only one place which served as an entrance and exit. We tried to move there, but as I was driving, I was unable to see anything, because it was dark all around, and when we were breathing, inside, our breath fogged the windows. I was unable to see, and my father was continuously wiping the windscreen from the inside because I could not see anything, and in the back, my family was praying to god, asking for forgiveness because the children are small, and asking him not to do this."
“I took the car up, and saw that there was the flood coming, both mud as well as water, so I was afraid, and took the car back. I thought that we could climb a wall that was close to us, but that wall was really high, and we had a small child.”
“I was afraid that exposing him to the rain would have made him get pneumonia. We preferred sitting in the car for some time, but the rain had increased so much in such a short time, that the car started moving along with the water. We realised that if we didn’t get out of the car, we would flow away with it, so we had to take our chances."
“As soon as we opened the door of the car, my daughter fell in the water. In order to catch her, my father chased her and he also fell down. He didn’t know how to swim, so he also went in the flood. Regarding my two-year-old son, I don’t remember where he was, and regarding my mum and wife, they were catching the little baby in their hands. My wife could not swim because she was holding the baby in her hands."
"A strong wave came from behind and pushed the car. Behind the car was a strong tidal wave which pushed us into the real wadi, which was a really stony area. We found a big rock there, and we took the support of that strong rock. But again, a full, strong wave came, and we fell into the water. Cold, muddy water. I twisted and turned maybe three or four times in the water, and didn’t realise what had happened to me. All the muddy water went into my stomach. Luckily, or maybe it was god’s wish, I caught the branch of a palm tree, but I was still moving."
"With my other hand, I caught the wall, I climbed the wall, and then I climbed up. As I went higher, I felt safe, but I was unable to observe anything behind me. As soon as I looked back, there was only the cold, muddy water. As soon as we opened the car door, my daughter slipped from the car. She couldn’t put her feet on the ground, so she slipped. My father tried to catch her, but he also fell, because of the water force."
"Then, the three of us were watching over them, and were crying because we could not do anything to save them, and we were praying to god, asking him what we had done to deserve this. What was the wrong that we had done to face this punishment?"
“I pray to god that no enemy of mine ever has to face this kind of weather, or see this or experience this, ever in his life. I ask God to not do this to anyone, inshallah. I lost my parents, I lost my family, I lost my children. My daughter was just four years old. Now she will never come back."
“I wish that I had multiple hands so that I could grab all my family members and then move uphill. I myself was saved, and the car was open. That is why we all slipped out and tumbled in the water and over the rocks. You can imagine the force of the water - if it is able to move the rocks from the mountains and into the wadi and on the road. I pray to god that this condition never happens to anyone. Please try to avoid such a condition.”
Search and rescue teams of the Sultanate’s Public Authority for Civil Defence and Ambulance combined efforts with local police officers and volunteers to comb the area in the hope of finding Sardar’s family members alive. The search began on Saturday evening, but poor visibility meant that they had to call it off at night and resume the next day.
On Sunday, there was still no sign of them. A PACDA spokesman told Times of Oman: “We had searched for the missing people last night but as time went on, the search was discontinued and resumed early in the morning due to visibility concerns.”
The spokesman added that the missing family’s vehicle was “dragged away in Wadi al Wudd in the Wilayat of Wadi Bani Khalid. A PACDA spokesman warned all residents and citizens to stay indoors, and not to travel until the current weather system passes.