It was 4.30 in the morning on February 13 1991, when the pilots of two stealth bombers released their deadly cargo. Until then, the women, children and elderly inside had felt they were safe in the purpose-built facility designed to protect against nuclear attack — and equipped with bunk beds, televisions, bathrooms, kitchens and a clinic. Their spirits were high after celebrating Eid Al Fitr the previous evening, but some were worried about fathers, brothers and husbands who had remained in their homes to ensure that there was enough room in the shelter for their loved ones.
In the event, their own lives were tragically cut short. Those sheltering on the upper floor were burnt to death; in some instances their silhouettes — carbonised by high temperatures — were eerily seared onto the walls, including that of a woman clutching onto her baby. Most of those in the lower hall were killed by boiling water that gushed from the shelter’s two enormous water tanks following the impact of the bombs.