KOCHI: Fourteen-year-old Ashwin arrived at the Zamra International Convention Centre in Kalamassery on Sunday as excited about spending time with his friend Savio as he was about the prayer session his mother Shiny had brought him to.
The teenager, who had travelled around 16km to the venue with his mother from their native place in Kanjur near Kalady, had barely closed his eyes for prayer along with the rest of the Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation when back-to-back explosions broke his reverie.
“There was fire and smoke all around me. I felt something on my face and hands,” he recounted to TOI. Ashwin suffered hand and face injuries. At the hospital where he was being treated in the evening, he looked at his 43-year-old mother lying on the bed next to his and said, “Am relieved that papa did not come. He would have sat near me and got hurt, too.”
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Aksa George, a nurse at a private hospital in Kochi, said she was in “a state of trance” when the explosions happened. “Although I am a medical professional, I wasn’t in a physical and mental condition to help anyone. I suffered burns on my hands.”Aksa’s brother Godey, who is under observation at the same ward, said he saw a man running with his trousers aflame. “I hope and pray that he survives,” he said.
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According to the attendees of the event, the organisers had given a safety demonstration that included exit routes from the hall, which reduced the number of casualties. For those who fell in the initial scramble, chairs strewn across the hall were the main hindrance.Thrissur native Salmon, who was there with his friend Abhishek, said the latter risked his life to save elderly people stuck inside the venue. “Abhishek initially got out with me but went back to save the elderly. As smoke entered his lungs, his heartbeat decreased. He was later shifted to the ICU.”
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Watch Kochi blast: Man claims he placed explosives at convention centre, makes several accusations against Jehovah’s Witnesses