Middle East

‘I was alone and scared’: Truck driver sheds tears of joy during dramatic desert rescue


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Mon, 2021-11-22 14:18

RIYADH: A long-haul lorry driver trapped in the Saudi Arabian desert for two days after his vehicle became stuck on an isolated track broke down in tears as he embraced rescuers who saved him from almost certain death.

Junayd Mohiuddin was traveling from the Saudi capital Riyadh to the western city of Rabigh on the Red Sea coast when his truck became trapped in rough terrain on a desert track. 

The lorry, carrying four tons of fodder, was 50 km from the nearest road when it got stuck, with no other vehicle in sight. 

Long-haul delivery drivers frequently take shortcuts through the desert to cut down on journey times.

Alone and unable to call for help, Mohiuddin’s situation soon became desperate. He sheltered in his vehicle from the heat of the sun and at night from wild animals in the remote wilderness. 

“I felt alone and scared amid the complete silence,” he said. “I heard wolves in the distance.”

Mohiuddin spent two solitary days in the desert before a traveler came by who offered him bread. Travelers, who at times cover great distances, are occasionally seen crossing the desolate landscape.

Later, another traveler gave him water and a piece of advice that probably saved his life.

The best way out of his predicament, the stranger suggested, might be to try to get a cell signal at a nearby mountain.

Mohiuddin, a diabetic, was able to mix the bread and water for strength, before attempting the 2 km trek. 

The tip paid off. The Sudanese expat found a signal at the mountain and was able to make contact with the Saudi Civil Defense, which gave him the number of an affiliate group of volunteers who could reach him. 

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After Mohiuddin spoke to the head of Barq Rescue — a group dedicated to rescuing people lost in the desert — a team was organized to help the stricken driver.

A video of the rescue, filmed by Mohiuddin, shows the group’s vehicles approaching and the driver repeating: “Marhab bil fazah,” a common term used by someone who is saved from a risky situation. 

Mohiuddin is seen emotionally welcoming his rescuers who greet and embrace him. 

The video drew widespread attention on social media in the Kingdom after it was posted on Barq Rescue’s Twitter account. 

“It is not unusual for Saudis to help someone in need,” a person said, commenting on the tweet. “I witnessed that when I was in their country.”

Mohiuddin recounted his ordeal on Al-Risalah, a Saudi television channel, and said that he appreciates the work that the volunteers are doing.

Founded in 2017, Barq (Arabic for “lightning”) is Saudi Arabia’s first accredited volunteer rescue team. The group is certified by the Saudi Civil Defense and the Ministry of Interior, and is a member of both the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation and the UN’s International Association for Voluntary Efforts.

Barq’s team leader, Talal Abdulghani, told Arab News earlier this year that the team began as an unofficial group of four-wheel-drive enthusiasts who saw an opportunity to use their vehicles for the greater good.

“Every member of the team joined us out of passion and the desire to help others,” Abdulghani said. “We’re not getting paid, nor do we charge for our services, and all of us have day jobs. We volunteer out of a sense of duty to our country and community.”

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