Dubai: Malappuram natives Noufal and Aboobacker, and Kannur native Afsal have been thanking their lucky stars. They had missed the ill-fated Air India Express flight that crashed at the Kozhikode International Airport in Karipur on Friday, killing at least 18 people.
Noufal, 38, of Thirunavaya and Aboobacker of Valanchery are grateful to God for their lucky escape. But they are at a loss over whether to rejoice in their good fortune or mourn the plane crash victims.
Noufal, who arrived in the UAE six years ago, had been working at a school at the Al Wahda in Sharjah for the past four years. Due to personal reasons, Noufal had to quit his job and booked ticket on the Friday's Dubai-Kozhikode flight to return home.
He also got gifts for his wife and three children. The flight was at 1.30pm. He bid farewell to his friends and left for the airport in the morning itself. He underwent COVID-19 tests at the airport but these were negative. However, he was stopped at the Emigration. As the visa period had expired, he cannot proceed with the journey without paying the fine, authorities informed him. But Noufal did not have the money to pay the fine. Therefore, he had no choice but to go back to his place of residence.
After reaching his room, he informed an Alappuzha native of his plight. This person, who owned a company, consoled Noufal and promised to help him. Noufal then went to the school in the evening and it is only then he got to know about the plane crash. Noufal believes that God had saved him by putting an obstacle in his journey. However, Noufal is unable to rejoice.
"I feel really bad when I think about the accident and all those who were affected," Noufal told Manorama Online.
But soon a good piece of news reached Noufal. The Alappuzha native offered him a job and also promised to resolve Noufal's problems.
Even as Noufal thanks the Almighty for the good turn of events, he prays for the victims of the plane crash and their next of kin.
Thanks to mother
Aboobacker too had a lucky escape, thanks to his mother. Aboobacker, , who owns supermarkets in Dubai, had booked a ticket on the Friday's flight. While he was making preparations for the journey, his mother Mariyam too expressed her wish to travel back home.
But Aboobacker asked her to rethink her plan for a flight journey amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the mother refused to change her decision. Then his father Muhammed Kutty Haji said that he too wanted to travel with them. Aboobacker had then no go, but to cancel his Friday's flight ticket. He then booked flight tickets for all three of them for the 8pm flight on Saturday.
Aboobacker was with one of his relatives when he got to know of the accident on Friday.
"I immediately telephoned my mother. She broke down on hearing the news, and then prayed," Aboobacker said.
Aboobacker's parents had reached the Gulf last February. His parents are currently living with Aboobacker's brother in Dubai. Muhammed Kutty Haji was an official at the Dubai Rulers' Court. Aboobacker was born and brought up in Dubai.
However, a passenger list released after the accident, showed that Aboobacker had cancelled the journey as he tested positive for COVID-19. Aboobacker was startled to see this.
"I really do not know why the list said I was COVID positive as I had not even gone to the airport. I guess they might have simply added a reason as the journey was cancelled," Aboobacker said.
Kannur native Afsal, 27, too has a similar tale to narrate. Afsal realised that his visa period had expired only after reaching the Dubai International Airport. He then went back to his place of residence to get some related documents. By the time he returned to the airport, the flight had departed.
Afsal arrived in Abu Dhabi for a job about one year ago. His marriage has been fixed with a Kanhangad native. Concerned relatives had contacted Afsal over the phone after they heard of the horrific plane crash.