Grief, emotions and tensions in Rotterdam’s Zuidwijk: ‘Not everything went well’

Family members seek comfort together behind the fence after finding the remains of one of the victims

NOS Newstoday, 06:46Amended today, 09:12

  • Sharyfah Bhageloe

    Editor online

  • Sharyfah Bhageloe

    Editor online

The chemical burning smell can still be smelled at the Schammenkamp in South Rotterdam. There is a large yellow demolition crane in front of the destroyed building. Three men from the forensic service lift a stretcher with a closed blue bag to the white tent further up the street.

On Monday there was an explosion in a garage under an apartment complex in Zuidwijk. Three people went missing. The bodies of victims Kamran and Ilyas were found in recent days.

The body that the police recovered from the rubble yesterday morning is probably that of the 33-year-old man who was still missing. The police say this “with some certainty”, but DNA testing is still being done to be completely sure. The police assume that there are no more victims under the rubble.

This week there was not only mourning at the scene of the disaster, there were also tensions. On Wednesday evening they increased to such an extent that the Mobile Unit (ME) took action.

Relatives and local residents had gathered in front of the fences that had been placed around the badly damaged building. Unrest arose. “We are Muslims, we must bury our bodies,” said a relative of the missing. For Muslims it is important that a deceased person is buried within 24 hours. Ultimately, the riot police were deployed and people were arrested who were trying to get past the fences on the closed site.

“I obviously have no doubts about the best intentions of the aid workers,” says Nourdin El Ouali. He is director of the Platform Islamic Organizations Rijnmond Foundation (SPIOR) and former leader of the NIDA party. “I think you can conclude that things didn’t go completely well.”


SPIOR mediated between the police and the relatives of the victims on the evening and night in question. What can help, according to El Ouali, is greater understanding among emergency services for the religious and cultural sensitivities that can play a role.

It was a confusing situation and emotions were running high, he says. “That also had to do with the fact that it took so long. People wanted to recover their deceased loved ones and two days had already passed. I think what is needed is that we ask the right questions now so that we can learn from it. .”

Those involved at the fence around the site of the explosion

Spiritual counselor Suat Erdemsoy was also there when people could not control their emotions. He guides people with life questions from a religious starting point. According to Erdemsoy, family members could have been better cared for and informed after the explosion.

“Some thought there might still be life and survivors could be pulled from the rubble,” he said. “We were not all well informed here either. So we entered into discussions to make it clear that that was not possible. And you are not allowed to endanger yourself. That is also not allowed from our religion.”

Rotterdam mayor Aboutaleb, who is currently in South America, does not want to respond to NOS.

Importance of rapid recovery

According to Erdemsoy, it is important for Muslims to bury the deceased as quickly as possible “because the deceased must be able to get to their destination as quickly as possible.” The body is also washed before the funeral, he says. “It is important for the grieving process to keep the body intact. If limbs are missing, that becomes more difficult. I think people were also concerned about that.”

Erdemsoy is now also supporting the relatives of the third victim, who was found yesterday, and linked the family to the police. “This way the lines of communication remain short. Today the family members will say prayers and do what is necessary.”

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Grief emotions tensions Rotterdams Zuidwijk


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