Hours after blaze and brouhaha erupted in Kashmir’s Bone and Joint Hospital, the heritage hospice emanates smoke and sorrow.
The charred building, gutted theatres and burnt wards have become some sad spectacle drawing people who watched videos of the iconic infirmary rising up in flames in their living rooms on Friday night.
With the arrival of eager spectators comes regard for the daredevils for saving the situation from getting worse.
Near the rubble being sifted for some trace of records stands some dozens of men discussing the long doused flames. Among them is a lanky man sporting brown hairdo and kohl-blue eyes. He’s Mehraj-u-din, a 45-year-old private ambulance driver.
He is one of those unsung heroes who helped evacuate patients and placed their beds all over the Barzulla bridge in a row.
“When the fire broke out on Friday night,” Mehraj says with a thoughtful face, “I asked my boys to immediately shift patients because saving human lives is the first priority.”
In almost 15 minutes, he recalls amid the growing buzz at the blistered building, private ambulance drivers evacuated 133 patients.
“Those poor patients were unable to walk,” the ambulance driver says. “They couldn’t move due to their recent injuries and surgeries.”
Almost 15 people working with Mehraj shifted patients to other hospitals before locals of Bhagat, Barzulla and Rambagh joined the rescue operation.
“The situation was so chaotic that we didn’t know where to shift patients,” Mehraj details the dark operation while inspecting the charred campus. “It was then the SSP Srinagar asked us to shift these patients to SKIMS and JVC.”
When the SKIMS and JVC failed to admit the additional load, the seven private ambulances carried patients to the GMC Srinagar that dedicated Ward No. 10 and 20 for the Barzulla patients.
The Trio Who Fought Flames (File Photo: The Himalayan Post)
But while these private ambulance drivers were ferrying patients, the security-in-charge of the hospital, Jalal-u-din, 24, was the one who initially fought the flames.
“The fire first started in the theatre section of the hospital,” Jalal-u-Din says.
“But we thought it’s a small electricity shortcut and I doused it with the small fire cylinder placed on hospital walls for emergency.”
What was however thought as the controlled situation soon engulfed wards where patients were trying some rest.
Ten minutes later, as the fire became a massive blaze, it created chaos inside the wards.
As soon as the situation went out of control, Ishtiyaq Sheikh, 36, ran to save the important documents of the hospital.
“Tons of piles, big boxes and important files were saved on the right time,” he said. “It would’ve taken years for government to fix the losses.”
While Ishtiyaq protected the records, Uzair Qadri saved oxygen cylinders from fuelling the fire.
“If oxygen cylinders would’ve blasted,” Uzair, another private ambulance driver, says, “the fire might have spread and engulfed the entire neighborhood.”