Believers ‘covered by God’ during Egypt blast
SA congregants caught up in the tourism bus bombing at Giza 'remained calm' as chaos swirled around them
A surreal calm fell over the bus carrying 20 Durban church members as shards of glass flew through the air.
“There was an amazing calmness. No screaming. No shouting. Everyone was covered by God.”
These were the words of deacon Carl Emmanuel, 63, of the St Francis Xavier Catholic Parish in Durban’s southern suburb of the Bluff. He was one of the 25 passengers injured when a bomb exploded near their tour bus in Egypt on Sunday.
The group – also including members from Christ the King Roman Catholic Church in Wentworth, also in south Durban – had just completed a 10-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land when a roadside bomb exploded as they were on their way to see the pyramids.
“The pilgrimage was completed, and some of the members wanted to see the pyramids, so we made arrangements beforehand to spend some time at the pyramids and the river Nile before our flight back to Johannesburg,” explained Emmanuel.
He said that before they had left, the bus was checked by security officers using sniffer dogs, and that security personnel boarded the bus with them.
Once on the bus, they were captivated by the new developments being built around the city, particularly the constitution of the Grand Egyptian Museum, set to be the largest archaeological museum in the world.
“My wife and I were seated in maybe the third row from the front. We had just seen what will be the museum when I felt this large gush of air. As I turned around there was broken glass everywhere. I held on to my wife and closed my eyes,” recalled Emmanuel.
After the bus came to halt, video footage being shared on social media shows the congregants in a daze, trying to figure out what had just happened and what their next move would be. This while still seemingly calm.
“I think the reason every one was able to remain as calm as possible was because we were in high spirits when we got onto the bus after our experience in the Holy Land. We were covered by God,” said Emmanuel.
After the incident, 11 people were rushed to hospital for treatment. Most of the group arrived back in SA on Monday. Four – three of whom are still receiving medical treatment – remained behind.
“Everyone who has come back is very traumatised, so much so that if you were to ask them if they would return to Egypt, they would say no,” said Emmanuel.
He, however, would be open to going back to Egypt, especially because he and his wife, Charmaine, had a wonderful experience there 11 years earlier.
“This could have happened anywhere. It could have happened here at home, it could have happened when I visited Australia,” he said.
The department of international relations and co-operation said on Sunday night that SA ambassador to Egypt Vusi Mavimbela had informed minister Lindiwe Sisulu that 25 South Africans were part of the tourist group when the bus came under attack.