Lying on a bed in Christchurch Hospital, Mohtasim Billah said he did not know how he survived yesterday's terror attack that left at least 49 people dead.
“I heard a sound and thought it was from a short circuit. But the sound kept coming back. All of a sudden, I saw people running out of the mosque,” he told The Daily Star last night, while narrating how horror unfolded at Al Noor Mosque.
“The gate of the mosque is small and not many people can go past it at a time. I was crammed into the door with others when a bullet hit my thigh. I fell on the floor,” mumbled Mohtasim, a member of the small Bangladeshi diaspora in the New Zealand city.
“I was lying on the floor in a pool of blood. I was still conscious before police turned up and carried me to an ambulance,” the survivor said, adding that he had been sitting on the second row on the right side inside the mosque. Reuters said at least 41 devotees were killed in that building.
This is the mosque, close to Hagley Park, where most of the Bangladeshis in the city attend their prayers.
Although Mohtasim survived, three other Bangladeshis have been killed in the grisly attack that New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described as “the country's worst ever mass shooting”.
Till filing of this report last night, the New Zealand authorities and hospital sources did not disclose details of the 49 dead.
According to Reuters, seven of the victims were killed at another mosque in Linwood neighbourhood while one person died after being taken to the hospital.
A Bangladesh foreign ministry handout did not give details about the three Bangladeshis.
“Among the casualties [about 50], there are reports of death of three person of Bangladeshi origin, and a few are critically injured. We still await details of them from the New Zealand security officials and hospital authorities officially,” it said.
However, Shafiqur Rahman Bhuiyan, honorary consul to the Consulate of Bangladesh in Auckland, told The Daily Star over phone, “So far, we can say three Bangladeshis are among the dead.”
At least four others were injured and being treated at the hospital. Several others could be missing, he said.
At one point, he handed over the phone to his wife Mahbuba Aziz, who said the dead had been identified as Dr Abdus Samad, his wife, and Hosne Ara Farid.
Talking to this newspaper, Hosne Ara's family members in Jagalhat of Sylhet's Golapganj upazila confirmed that she was among the dead.
Quoting their relatives in New Zealand, they claimed that Hosne Ara died while trying to save her husband, who is living with disabilities.
The man survived.
Canterbury Christchurch University's College of Business and Law teacher Mesbahuddin Chowdhury also said those three were dead.
He added that Abdus Samad, a former teacher of Bangladesh Agricultural University in Mymensingh, had been living in Christchurch for about 20 years.
However, Samad's son Toaha Mohammad yesterday evening told The Daily Star he was not sure whether his father was dead or alive. He said he was told by the hospital authorities that his father had suffered bullet wounds.
Toaha also said his mother did not go to the mosque yesterday.
The Christchurch Hospital was teeming with people. Among them were a number of Bangladeshis desperately looking for their missing family members and friends.
The four critically injured at the hospital were identified as Lipi, Rubel, Mohtasim and Zakaria.
“Lipi Bhabi sustained a bullet wound on her left chest. The doctors had an operation. It has been four to five hours since then and we are yet to hear of any more updates,” said the victim's friend Mazfuza Akter Rina.
“What we have learnt is that she is still not out of danger. We still don't know when she will regain consciousness,” she added.
Rina said she was also supposed to attend yesterday's prayers but skipped as her husband was ill.
“We are still looking for two more missing friends. We don't know what happened to them,” she added.
She said one of them was Zakaria, and the other one was Omar Faruque. Zakaria was later spotted at the ICU of the hospital.
Asif Sheikh, an Indian dentist, was also looking for his Bangladeshi roommate Mozammel Haque, also a dentist.
Another Bangladeshi at the hospital, Mahbuba, said, “It is difficult to ascertain the number of Bangladeshis who was at the mosque.”
“There is almost a curfew-like situation. Even the New Zealand government cannot say the actual number of the casualties,” she added.
Consul Shafiqur Rahman said he would go to Christchurch tomorrow morning to extend support to the Bangladeshi victims.
The Bangladesh High Commission directly and through the Honorary Consul of Bangladesh in Auckland was circulating messages to the Bangladeshi diaspora in general, and Christchurch in particular, to remain calm, be indoors, avoid places of congregation and to obey the instructions of the law enforcers.
Mahbuba Aziz, Mesbahuddin and others living in Christchurch said that around 150 to 200 people of Bangladeshi origin live in the city. Some of them are teachers and students at the Canterbury Christchurch University and Lincoln University, Christchurch.
Some Bangladeshis, who migrate to Singapore as skilled labourers, also go to Christchurch to work as welders and technicians at different places, including at ship building sites, they added.