It was a providential escape for 25-year-old medical student Assoiun Hussain who was just 50 metres away when his batchmate Naveen Shekarappa Gyanagoudar was killed in shelling in war-torn Ukraine's Kharkiv town.
A day later, Hussain's family in Kerala are thankful he escaped but also know that many perils lie ahead.
Assoiun along with others is on his way to western Ukraine from Kharkiv to escape the fierce Russian assault, his brother Afsal Hussain said.
"Naveen's death came as a shocker. My mother, who was concerned and stressed, collapsed as the news broke out. She is now admitted at a hospital. It is testing times for us, who are thousands of kilometres away," he said.
The Russian attack began last week and heavy shelling has been reported from several areas of Ukraine, including capital Kyiv and Kharkiv.
"My brother had taken shelter in an underground metro rail station, which was 50 metres from the place Naveen died. He was his batchmate," Afsal Hussain said as he and others in Kerala's Kannaur city scan social media platforms for updates.
Gyanagoudar, who hailed from Chalageri in Haveri district of Karnataka, was a fourth-year medical student like Assoiun Hussain at the Kharkiv National Medical University.
Several students, who are holed up in bunkers in Ukrainian cities, are unable to escape because of the continuous shelling, say parents, who have also flagged their concern over the Indian embassy's advisory asking students to reach Ukraine's borders for evacuation.
"They are children and not matured enough to reach borders by themselves. Some sort of support should be provided to them," said R Vasudevan, whose 21-year-old son Girish is stranded in Kharkiv.
Vasudevan said he and his family are just praying for Girish's safe return. "Not just my son but many students are stuck there," he said.
"The death of a student is worrying us. I know evacuating people from Ukraine's borders is a tedious task, but people who are stuck in the cities like Kyiv and Kharkiv should also be brought back," Vasudevan said.
Adding to their miseries, are social media posts attacking parents for sending their children to study outside India. Afsal Hussain said that this has worsened the situation.
To evacuate Indian students from Ukraine, the government is conducting 'Operation Ganga'.
Of the 20,000 Indians who were stranded in Ukraine, so far, 6,000 have been brought back and the Centre is making all efforts for the safe return of the remaining, Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said on Wednesday.
Under 'Operation Ganga', planes of Air India, Air India Express, IndiGo, SpiceJet, and Indian Air Force are being operated.