The spot near Kharkai where Afridi and Altab drowned on Sunday. Picture by Bhola Prasad
Second time unlucky. Two teenage brothers, on their second trip to collect sand from the banks of a rain-fed Kharkai, lost their lives to its ravenous waters on Sunday morning, though bathers brought them to Tata Main Hospital.
Mohammed Afridi (15) and Mohammed Altab (13), sons of a Jugsalai fruit-seller and residents of the area’s Garib Nawaz Colony in Jugsalai, did not know how to swim.
According to family members, the boys had left home around 11.30am to bring sand from the riverbank for home repairs.
Since the Kharkai is still in spate in the aftermath of cyclone Phailin, it was a risky venture to start with.
Then, the boys collected insufficient sand in their first attempt.
According to bereaved relatives, younger brother Altab proposed a second outing to bring more sand.
As an enthusiastic Altab stretched out to lift more sand and fill his bucket, he slipped into the river and started drowning.
His screams alerted Afridi, who was also collecting sand nearby. Afridi jumped to rescue his brother.
Nearby bathers, on hearing their cries, jumped into the river and somehow managed to catch hold of the boys.
But though the duo were rushed to Tata Main Hospital, doctors on emergency duty declared them brought dead.
Subsequently, the police recovered the bodies and sent them to MGM Medical College mortuary for post-mortem.
The victims’ father Mohammed Nausad was too shocked to speak.
As the news of the twin deaths reached Garib Nawaz Colony, a pall of gloom descended on the densely-populated area.
Circle inspector of Jugsalai police station Arun Kumar Mishra said the tragedy occurred as the teenaged boys did not know how to swim. “Collecting sand from the riverbank right now, when the river is swollen, is a dangerous task. The brothers did not know how to swim. They got swept by the fast and strong current,” said circle inspector Mishra.
He also commended the bathers for their bravery.
“The local residents acted promptly on hearing the cries of the boys. It is due to their efforts that the bodies were recovered. It is unfortunate that the young lives were lost,” he told The Telegraph.
Both Afridi and Altab, who did not go to school, did odd jobs and helped their father Nausad run his fruit business at Jugsalai Market.
Relatives pointed out that the boys would frequently go to the river since their childhood. “The river flowed hardly 300 yards away from their house and they were not afraid of it. We never expected such a tragedy,” said a relative.
However, the boys had not reckoned with the force of the overflowing Kharkai. The swollen river had also flooded several low-lying areas in and around the city.