AL AIN // A father drove his 4x4 through the wall of a blazing house in a desperate bid to save the lives of his young wife and their five-year-old son.
Ahmed Khalil Shaheen's efforts led to the rescue of 13 women and a nine-month-old baby, but his wife and son perished in the fire in Al Jimi, Al Ain.
Tahrir Khamis Shaheen, 28, had raised the alarm when she was awoken by flames in the early hours of Saturday, while Mr Shaheen was out of the house.
Mrs Shaheen rushed out to alert neighbours, who called emergency services.
She then ran back inside the burning two-bedroom house to rescue their little boy, Khalilallah. Both died in the flames.
"The rescue technicians didn't want to enter the house until firefighters arrived," said Mr Shaheen, 30, from Jordan.
"We told them there were women trapped at the back of the house in a room with no windows. They said to wait for the fire department and handed me a fire extinguisher.
"I knew that if something wasn't done immediately everyone inside would die.
"When I realised my wife had gone back in, I pleaded with the police and the rescue technicians to use their vehicles to ram through the side of the house but they wouldn't do it, and said they wouldn't allow me to do it."
Ali Naji al Sabah, an Emirati neighbour, stepped in and told Mr Shaheen to ignore the police.
"Ahmed got into his Mitsubishi Pajero and aimed for the wall," Mr al Sabah said. "He jumped the kerb in front of the police and slammed through the wall, making a huge hole."
Mr al Sabah, 35, then climbed through the hole in the wall to find the women huddled unconscious in the middle of the room, covered by blankets.
"I pulled out eight people and my cousin Mohammed pulled out the rest with Ahmed as the fire department arrived to put out the flames at the front of the house," he said.
"I handed each woman over to other neighbours who were outside, through the hole in the wall, then went back in to check if anyone else was left behind. That's when I stepped on something soft that let out a whimper. It was a nine-month-old baby."
By the time Mr Shaheen had rammed his car through the wall, an ambulance had arrived. It drove off with some of the victims.
"We put four women into the Mitsubishi and a policeman put the baby in his patrol car, and we rushed to Al Ain Hospital following him with his lights and sirens on," said Mr al Sabah.
The father of the woman who died criticised the response of Civil Defence.
"They were under-equipped and hesitant to perform the rescues," Khamis Mohammed Shaheen, 63, said. "Had it not been for the neighbours and my son-in-law, there would have been 14 more deaths. I demand that the Ministry of Interior investigate what happened."
The house's occupants were later taken to Al Massa Hotel in Al Ain.
"The Red Crescent Society paid for us to stay at the hotel for five days," said Sumaya Mohammed al Masri, 60, the mother-in-law of the woman who died.
"We are poor people and in a few days will have nowhere to go. We lost members of our family and everything we have."
Funeral services began yesterday in Al Jimi next to the burnt-out house.
Police say initial investigations suggest the fire was caused by an electrical fault. The Civil Defence was not available for comment.