AJMAN // Shock, disbelief and guilt were etched on the faces of onlookers as they gazed upon the burnt-out villa where six members of their tight-knit community perished.
"We can't believe it, they are all gone in a blink of an eye," said a 19-year-old girl living opposite the two-storey villa in Al Hamideyah, Ajman.
The girl's mother, Umm Ahmed, said her daughter-in-law heard screams from the house in the early morning but assumed it was the children playing.
Instead, the screams were the desperate calls of a family trapped by flames. They had fled upstairs to escape the blaze engulfing the ground floor and had become trapped.
One of them, 15-year-old Amer Ahmed, jumped from a window and survived. His mother, a widow, his three sisters and the family's two maids perished.
"We were sleeping when it happened," said Umm Ahmed, who said her youngest son was Amer's best friend.
She remembered the family's kindness, noting that they often sent her dishes for iftar. "The last one she sent was pastries and a creme caramel dish about three days ago."
"Everyone is in shock and feels guilty," said Umm Ahmed's eldest daughter. "How could people die just like that and none of us manage to do anything to help rescue them?"
Neighbours said the three daughters were still in school - one in primary, one in elementary and the eldest in high school.
"We often saw them around, they were nice and quiet people," said one of Umm Ahmed's daughters.
The imam of a mosque opposite the villa described Amer as a good, well-raised child. "He memorised six parts of the Quran," said Mohammed Abdul Hakim, 65.
He said Amer's grandfather had bought the villa for the family to move into after Amer's father died some years ago. Nobody seemed to know if Amer's mother had a job.
The imam said the mosque's watchman was on duty at the time of the fire but did not hear anything.
Another neighbour, Abdul Aziz Ebrahim, said the first he and his family heard of the incident was the rescue cars arriving.
"We have been neighbours for about five years, they were good people," he said.
Mohammed Kutty, 47, a delivery man from Al Hamideyah supermarket, said the youngest girl had called yesterday to request sandwich bread.
Mr Kutty moved to the supermarket two years ago, and has heard "only good things" about the family.
"Amer is a wonderful and good hearted boy," Mr Kutty said. "He often gave me tips."
Last night, Brig Saleh Saeed Al Matroushi, director general of the Ajman Civil Defence, urged households to be more aware of fire safety.
He said most household fires could be attributed to a lack of general knowledge about fire safety, as well as negligence of electrical household items.
He added that Civil Defence was carrying out awareness campaigns across the country to ensure the safety of families. These include educational programmes about the dangers of fires and how to prevent them, as well as how to react in the event of a fire.