Abu Dhabi blast survivors recall moment deadly Houthi strike hit

Ramjan Rath and Saeed Noor Jabar Khan watched colleagues enveloped in flames in a terrorist attack condemned by world leaders

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Survivors of the Houthi strike on an Abu Dhabi oil storage plant have described the moment the ground shook and fire filled the air, peppering their bodies with shrapnel and killing three colleagues.

Two civilian oil workers, one speaking from his hospital bed, gave The National a first-hand account of the blast on Monday when projectiles struck Adnoc's oil terminal in Mussaffah.

The attack on the civilian facility has been condemned by world leaders and diplomatic efforts are under way to add Yemen's Houthi group to the US list of terrorist groups.

Ramjan Mohamed Rath from India and Saeed Noor Jabar Khan from Pakistan recall the deafening explosion.

“It was a dangerous, frightening, terrifying sound. I have never heard such a loud sound in my life,” Mr Rath told The National from his home in Abu Dhabi, where he recovering after receiving 10 stitches in his left leg.

It was as if the ground disappeared from under my feet. Even now, I hear it in my ear
Ramjan Mohamed Rath

“It was as if the ground disappeared from under my feet. God saved me. Even now, I hear it in my ear.

“If someone near me says something too loud, then I get scared.”

He is among six people injured in the Houthi attack that led to condemnation from global leaders.

Three of his co-workers, who have not yet been named, died in the attack. Their bodies were repatriated on Wednesday and Thursday.

Mr Rath was standing near his lorry completing paperwork when the blast occurred.

“I turned around and there was fire on trucks and fire on the ground,” said the 24-year-old from a small village in Rajasthan, western India.

“My truck was also on fire. People tried to put out the flames but it was not possible. It all happened in a minute.

“I felt something hit my leg and saw a lot of blood. I didn’t immediately realise I was wounded.”

Mr Khan saw a flash and felt the heat as flying debris shot into his shoulder — narrowly missing an artery between his arm and chest.

Doctors removed shrapnel from his left shoulder and said he would have been killed if the fragment had punctured a centimetre in another direction.

Speaking to The National from his hospital bed, the 33-year-old said he was boarding his lorry when the explosion occurred.

“I hadn’t even fully entered the truck and was speaking to my friend when the fire happened,” he said.

“I didn’t even realise that I was injured until I was outside and saw blood on my shirt.”

Mr Khan is from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan and has worked in the UAE for the past 10 years.

The father of three said his family is still in shock

“They still don’t believe that I escaped the blast. I feel so lucky and thank God to have escaped the face of death,” Mr Khan said.

Both men work for companies that transport fuel from the Mussaffah oil storage plant outside Abu Dhabi city to depots across the country.

Mr Rath, who has worked in Abu Dhabi for four years, has not yet told his family in India about his lucky escape.

He said his four older sisters and elderly parents would be distraught to hear he was so close to an explosion.

“They will be too scared. I don’t have the courage to tell them,” Mr Rath said.

The terror attack has shattered the peaceful life the men once knew.

“I feel sad this has happened. We were happy and working before this, and now three people have died and people have got injured,” Mr Rath said.

“We are happy God has saved us but I’m sad also.

“We always think of the UAE as a peaceful country and I feel very said that this happened here. My truck, my new truck that was my livelihood, has burnt down and for that, I feel sad.

“I feel sad for the families of the people who died and how scared they must be.”

The UAE Government and Adnoc have committed to maintaining support for all families who suffered from the attack.

Updated: January 28, 2022, 6:46 AM