Sharmila Kataria was working in the kitchen on Saturday morning when she first heard an explosion just across the road. Moments later came a bigger explosion which shook the earth and sent utensils flying off the shelves.
As she looked out of the window, all she could see a mountain of dust and the panic-stricken cries of people rushing to the scene of Saturday’s killer blast which left more than 100 people dead in Jhabua, a small Madhya Pradesh township.
But the 40-year-old home-maker did not panic as she rushed to pick up the phone and dial the emergency police helpline and the medical assistance number.
“When my eyes adjusted to rising dust, all I could see was bloodied bodies and body parts strewn over a large area. It was a horrible sight. Some of the injured were trying to get up others were screaming for help,” Kataria told HT at her residence a few hours after the explosions, still struggling to overcome the shock of witnessing one of the goriest scenes of her life.
Kataria also claimed that the person manning the emergency 108 ambulance helpline initially said she must be joking, which allegedly delayed arrival of paramedics by nearly half-anhour. However, HT could not independently verify her claim.
Other people near the accident site had similar harrowing tales to tell.
Anil Ninja ( 45), who lives opposite the incident spot, was standing outside his house and reading the morning newspaper when the bigger explosion took place. He received serious injuries and was rushed to Ratlam district hospital for treatment.
A family- member Sunil Bhandari said he was out for a morning stroll when he heard the booming sound.
“Initially we were unable to gauge the intensity of the explosion as we had seen such kind of blasts only in movies. But the situation got clear about five to 10 minutes later when we saw a large number of bodies and injured lying on the road. The explosion had reduced three buildings and a restaurant to rubble and left many bloodied and wounded,” Bhandari said at the hospital in Ratlam.
23-year-old Saurabh Jain said the restaurant was packed as usual with people who arrive at the nearby bus stand every day.
“People were screaming and shouting. Some were crying, ‘ I’m dying, I’m dying, please help me’,” he added.