AL AIN // Seven of the eight women injured in a deadly house fire early on Saturday were in intensive-care units at two hospitals yesterday, their family members keeping a constant vigil.
Without the actions of Ahmed Khalil Shaheen, 30, the 14 people trapped inside the burning house in Al Jimi would almost certainly have died, witnesses said.
As The National reported yesterday, Mr Shaheen used his 4x4 vehicle to ram a hole through the home's back wall. His action led to the rescue of 13 women and a nine-month-old baby trapped inside.
But Mr Shaheen's 28-year-old wife, Tahrir Khamis Shaheen, had rushed back into the burning house to rescue the couple's five-year-old son, Khalilallah, and both were pulled from the rubble dead.
The Al Jimi Civil Defence headquarters is about three kilometres from the family's home. Witnesses said the first responders, two pickup trucks carrying one-man "quick intervention" teams, took 15 minutes to arrive after the fire was reported at about 3.50am. A fire vehicle arrived about 10 minutes later.
Even after the survivors are discharged from hospital, there is no home to which they can return. Twenty people lived in the two-bedroom house, which was gutted by the fire and has no rear wall.
Before the fire there was only one entrance to the building, and the back room had no windows. Police said initial investigations indicated an electric fault caused the blaze.
Residents are offering support to the homeless family. "The story touched my heart and others I spoke to," said Seham Manna. "Al Ain is a small community, and when something happens here it affects everyone. The part in the story that touched my heart the most was the braveness of these men and the old lady who said they had lost everything and had no place to go."
Ms Manna and her friend Sandy Jaloudi printed up a flyer with The National's article from Monday prominently displayed. Underneath was written: "When was the last time you helped anyone? This family lives in Al Ain and they lost everything they have, in addition to the most important thing, family members. Please donate anything [money, household item or cloths] to help the Shaheen family."
Ms Jaloudi also sent an e-mail to hundreds of people asking for help in raising funds for the family.
The family is staying at Al Massa Hotel in Al Jimi, thanks to the Al Ain Red Crescent Society, which is paying for five nights.
Civil Defence inspection teams had visited 22,378 houses out of 32,862 targeted homes in Al Ain recently, checking for fire hazards.
"Only a few houses were found to be hazardous," said Lt Col Hamad al Reyami, head of the Abu Dhabi fire safety campaign. In Abu Dhabi city, 65,266 houses out of a targeted 86,640 were visited. Only 292 were found to be dangerous.
According to the Shaheen family, Civil Defence inspectors had never visited their home.
* With additional reporting by Haneen Dajani