Family members of senior flight attendant Khwaja Hossain Shafey, who died during the US-Bangla plane crash in Nepal, have accused officials of the Bangladesh Embassy in Nepal of mismanagement, unprofessionalism, and non-cooperation.
Khwaja Hossain Mohammad Shafey’s elder sister Basimah Saifullah and his wife Sadia Rahman said the Nepali authorities, local people, and Bangladeshi doctors were cordial, but victims’ families did not get proper support from the Bangladesh Embassy.
Khwaja’s wife Sadia is also a flight attendant of US-Bangla Airlines.
Speaking with the Dhaka Tribune, Basimah shared her experience during her visit to Nepal. She, along with a few family members, rushed to Kathmandu after the plane crash to identify Shafey’s body.
Claiming that the Bangladesh Embassy had prepared a faulty list of the deceased, she said: “We heard that my brother was dead. After arriving in Nepal, we rushed to Kathmandu Medical College and found his name on the list of deceased plane crash victims.
“There was confusion, as back in Bangladesh immediately after the crash, we saw that the local media kept mentioning two names - Khwaja Hossain and KHM Shafey, as separate people. The list was provided by the embassy.”
Basimah then spoke to a doctor from Om Hospital & Research Centre in Kathmandu, who was in the rescue team at the accident site.
“He confirmed my brother’s death. The doctor was able to identify him as he was the only male flight attendant and he was wearing his uniform at the time of his death,” she added.
The family members then rushed to Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH) in Nepal to identify the body.
Basimah continued: “The authorities there did not want us to see the bodies as most of them were badly burnt. But, later we found that my brother was not burnt and he did not have any injury marks on his body.”
As victims were being identified one by one, the doctors identified three US Bangla staff among the deceased, excluding Sharmin Akhter Nabila.
She added: “Later, we saw all the bodies. It was unbearable. Most of the bodies were unrecognizable, especially the children.
“The members of different families present in Kathmandu became a single family as they moved together to finish formalities for bringing the bodies back home.”
‘Bangladesh Embassy was reluctant to help’
The family members wanted the bodies of the victims to be washed before the namaz-e-janaza in Nepal. But that did not happen, because the condition of most of the bodies was not good.
“Officials of the Bangladesh Embassy in Nepal showed reluctance during the whole process. They failed to show the professionalism necessary to handle the crisis,” Basimah told the Dhaka Tribune.
According to Basimah, the idea of sending a team of Bangladeshi doctors to Nepal was the brainchild of the victims’ family members: “The embassy did not launch the initiative. The victims’ family members requested them to do so.
“We requested Bangladesh’s Ambassador to Nepal Mashfee Binte Shams not to rely on Nepali doctors for identifying the bodies. We said we should bring doctors from Bangladesh to cross check victims’ identities.”
The embassy did not initially include cabin crew Nabila’s name on the list of the deceased. They confused Khawaja Hossain and KHM Shafey as separate people. The embassy initially claimed that Khawaja Hossain was dead and KHM Shafey was undergoing treatment at the hospital.
“I went to the embassy and made it clear that my brother is dead. Both the names belong to the same person. The embassy picked up wrong names from TV reports. They did not work out the facts themselves. They did not even collect names from the manifest of local hospitals,” she said.
The family members also pointed out that the embassy did not inform them when the namaz-e-janaza would be held or when the bodies would be flown to Bangladesh.
“The ambassador could not get us the information we needed. We carried out all of the formalities ourselves,” she claimed.