11 Filipinos hurt in Riyadh blast; 22 others dead

by Jojo Malig, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Nov 01 2012 07:53 PM | Updated as of Nov 02 2012 06:04 AM

MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) - At least 11 Filipinos were injured in a fuel truck blast and building collapse in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Thursday, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

Two Filipinos were brought to the National Guard Hospital for injuries caused by the explosion, while several other Filipinos with light injuries have been discharged from hospitals, according to Foreign Affairs spokesperson Raul Hernandez.

Other Filipinos who were injured in the blast were taken to the Habib Hospital, the Jazira Clinic, and Shumaisi.

"Three Filipinos were discharged from National Guard Hospital. So far, that is a total of 11 -- 8 in the hospitals, and 3 discharged. Embassy teams are still checking with other hospitals," Hernandez said in a text message to ABS-CBN News.

Philippine Ambassador  to Saudi Arabia Ezzedin Tago, told TV Patrol that the embassy is helping 2 of the victims brought to the hospital. He did not identify them.

"Nung narinig namin yung balita, about yung truck,  iyung tanker na nag-explode, nagpadala kami (personnel) sa ospital. Ang confirmed lang po ngayon ay 2 sa ospital. Meron ibang 2 Pilipinong injured at meron na discharge agad sa kanilang employer," Tago said.

"Wala kaming balita na may namatay (na Filipino)," he added.

"May 2 team kami pumunta sa malalapit na ospital para i-confirm kung meron pang ibang na injure. Sa 2 na-confirm, kinukuha namin ang kanilang family contacts, details para inform namin ang kanilang family dito o sa Pilipinas," he said.

"Nakipag-coordinate kami sa employer nila to ensure na they are well assisted habang nasa ospital sila," Tago said.

At least 22 people were killed in the incident, which happened when a fuel truck crashed into a flyover in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Thursday, triggering an explosion that brought down an industrial building and torched nearby vehicles, officials and state media said.

Health ministry spokesman Saad al-Qahtani said 135 people were injured in the disaster. He told state television they were mostly men and included some foreigners.

The civil defense department said a gas tanker had hit a bridge in eastern Riyadh, causing a gas leak and an explosion in a nearby heavy machinery and vehicles warehouse, according to the state news agency SPA.

"The truck driver was surprised by a road accident on its route, causing it to crash into one of the pillars of the bridge," spokesman Captain Mohamed Hubail Hammadi said.

Although the incident took place near the headquarters of the Saudi Arabian National Guard and the Prince Nayef Arab College for Security Sciences, officials speaking on state television said it was an accident.


A Filipino, who was among those who arrived on the scene after the explosion and building collapse, said several Filipinos were among victims.

Jojo Custodio, an employee of Zahid Tractor, said he was 3 kilometers away from his office when the blast occured.

Custodio said he heard the explosion and felt the vibrations from the blast.

He immediately rushed to his office to check on his relatives who worked in the area.

Upon arriving at Zahid, he said he saw several injured co-workers, including some Filipinos. 

"Nakita ko ang impact kasi nakasilip ako ng bintana. Tanaw namin ang compound," Custodio told TV Patrol.

"Papunta sana ako roon. Dumapa ako, kasi yung bubog, papunta sa akin sa kwarto ko. Pagtapos noon, bumaba kami. Lumabas kami ng mga kasamahan ko sa bahay, pagpunta namin sa compound," he said.

"Nakita namin doon sa ilalim ng tulay may nasusunog na tanker. Pumasok kami sa compound namin, doon na namin nakita na halos yung buong kumpanya namin nasira talaga sya," he added.

"Maraming kumpanya nagtatratabaho nung oras na iyun. Ang tendency namin, pumasok kami sa loob para i-rescue ang kapwa namin Pilipino. Mga casualty, marami nasugatan pero lahat naman sila nasa ospital na ngayon," Custodio said.

"Palabas na ako, may nabalitaan din kami na isang nasawi pero di namin alam kung sino," he said.

Driver blamed

Saudi civil defense chief Saed al-Tweijri said the fire caused by the blast has been brought under control. He blamed the tanker driver for the accident.

The warehouse, several storeys high, was levelled by the blast, which also caused severe damage to other neighbouring buildings. Rubble, twisted metal and shattered glass littered a wide stretch of the surrounding area.

"I was inside the building when the blast came. Then boom, the building collapsed. Furniture, chairs and cabinets blasted into the room I was in," said survivor Kushnoo Akhtar, a 55-year-old Pakistani worker, who was covered in dirt and bleeding from multiple cuts on his face and hands. "My brother is still inside under the rubble. There are lots of people in there."

The blast, which struck at around 7.20 a.m. local time, was on one of the capital's busiest roads but because Saudi Arabia is still observing the Eid al-Adha holiday, traffic was lighter than normal.

An hour after the explosion, fires still raged in cars and trucks nearby and a column of black smoke billowed over the area.

Dozens of burnt-out vehicles surrounded the scene of the blast, including a small bus and other cars on top of the flyover, which was left buckling after the incident.

Television footage and pictures posted on social media showed a body lying by smoking vehicles and at least two charred bodies seated in a car. Another blackened corpse was visible in the remains of a truck.

More than 100 emergency personnel were combing the wreckage on the flyover and searching for victims in the rubble of the building, which housed the operations of Zahid Tractor, a distributor of heavy machinery. - with a report from Reuters