x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Brother reveals horror of learning National Paints fire victim's fate

The brother of a man whose remains were discovered two months after the National Paints fire in Sharjah says the memory will haunt him for the rest of his life.

Tabreer Ahmed shows a photo of his younger brother Khurshid, who died in the fire at the National Paints factory in Sharjah in May.
Tabreer Ahmed shows a photo of his younger brother Khurshid, who died in the fire at the National Paints factory in Sharjah in May.

SHARJAH // The brother of a man whose remains were discovered two months after a paint factory fire said the image of his sibling's burnt body will haunt him for the rest of his life. The body of Khurshid Ahmed, 27, was found in the ruins of the National Paints warehouse, where he had worked as an electrician. He had married only six months before the May 11 blaze.

"It was a very sad thing to see his burnt body after two months," said his older brother, Tabreer Ahmed. "It's the worst memory I am going to have to live with all my life." Mr Ahmed, 37, who owns a laundry in Dubai, had spent the two months since his brother's disappearance trying to find out what had happened to him. He had filed a missing person report and repeatedly asked National Paints for help in locating him.

Mr Ahmed also talked to a few friends of his brother who worked at the factory. All of them said Khurshid had died in the fire. The company advised him to file a missing person report with police as firemen said they had not found any bodies after the blaze. A second body, also found in the gutted building last week, has not been identified. "I knew that there had been a fire at National Paints that evening but had not called my brother," Mr Ahmed said. "I thought he was safe, but the next day the company called me and asked me first if I was his brother and then if I knew of his whereabouts."

He filed the report at the Gharb police station and went to the company offices almost every day in an effort to obtain news of his brother's fate. On Monday he received a phone call from police asking him to take some DNA tests. A police officer told him they had found a body in the factory and they wanted to confirm whether it was his brother. "After taking the tests I knew the long search for my brother had finally ended," he said. "I am convinced he is dead even before the results of the tests are out."

He is expected to receive news of the outcome today. Mr Ahmed said he called his family in India to let them know that a body had been found and a DNA test had been done. "I could hear everyone screaming in the background as my mother talked to me on the phone," he said. "I could tell they are all devastated." His mother, Aneesa Ahmed, from a village near Akbarpur in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, said her missing son was trying to provide for his family by working for National Paints.

"He was just doing his job," she said. "He was there so he could take care of me here." Mrs Ahmed did not believe reports that her son had absconded from his job following the fire. The company initially thought he had fled following the blaze and has consistently refused to comment since the two bodies were found this week. "If he was alive, he would have called home even if he had absconded from the job," said Mrs Ahmed. "But God had something else in mind and I knew my son would never just go missing like that."

Khurshid Ahmed had married last year after the Eid al Adha holiday, when he went home for 40 days to visit his family. His mother chose his bride and opted for a young woman from the same village, who was from a poor family and had slim marriage prospects because they could not afford a lavish wedding or dowry. "His wife is now very worried," she said. "I don't know what it is like to lose someone you have been with for only 30 days."

Before joining National Paints three years ago, Khurshid Ahmed ran a confectionary shop outside the family home in Uttar Pradesh. Another brother, Azeem Ahmed, who works for Tabreer in his laundry shop in Bur Dubai, said Khurshid was a joyful and understanding person. "Every time he came here he would ask me about my life and home," he said. "He always encouraged me to work hard and support my family in India."

ykakande@thenational.ae sbhattacharya@thenational.ae