x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Father and son die saving family from fire in Sharjah

An Emirati father and his eldest son who both died in a house fire in Sharjah on Friday morning have been laid to rest in the Al Madam area of the city.

SHARJAH // A father and his eldest son died of suffocation while rescuing 12 of their family from a fire in their home.

The man’s wife and another son, aged 8, were critically ill in hospital yesterday after the fire in the early hours of Friday in the Emirati family’s villa in Al Madam in Sharjah.

The father, 53, and his 20-year-old son died from the effects of smoke inhalation, said Brig Abdullah Saeed Al Suwaidi, director general of Sharjah Civil Defence.

“The father was carrying his children and putting them on the veranda and going back to collect others,” he said.

“They succeeded in saving their family – the neighbours also assisted them – but they were overcome with the smoke inside and died of suffocation.”

Twelve members of the family were taken to Al Dhaid Hospital in Sharjah. The mother, 45, and her eight-year-old son were later moved to Al Mafraq Hospital and Sheikh Khalifa Medical City in Abu Dhabi.

“The two were airlifted yesterday and their condition was still considered critical at the time,” said Ali Al Shamsi, director general of Al Dhaid hospital.

The other family members were discharged to attend the funeral at Al Madam cemetery on Friday.

The fire broke out at about 2am on Friday. Brig Al Suwaidi said firefighters brought it under control in less than 30 minutes but were unable to save the father and son.

Col Dr Abdul Qader Al Amiri, the director of Sharjah Police Forensic Laboratory, said an initial investigation suggested the fire had been started by faulty electrical wiring in a living room on the first floor. Fire experts and CID officers were still at the scene yesterday.

Responding to complaints that firefighters did not arrive quickly enough, Col Al Suwaidi said the department was working with the Ministry of Interior to open a fully operating civil-defence station in Al Madam.

He also said the house had only one door, which was a breach of fire-safety requirements.

Several members of another Emirati family died in a fire in Ajman in August. Six women were killed – a mother, her three daughters and two housemaids.

Haleema Mubarak, a widow, her daughters Maryam, 7, Nouf, 14 and Mouza, 11, and their Indonesian and Ethiopian housemaids died in the blaze in Al Hamideyah in Ajman city.

Sparks caused by faulty wiring set fire to curtains and furniture, which were made of flammable materials, fire and forensic investigators established. The flames, fanned by the AC, quickly spread through the villa.

The six victims all died from the effects of smoke inhalation. Mrs Mubarak’s son Amer Ahmed, 15, jumped to safety from a first floor window.

Esma, the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology, has warned that faulty and substandard wires are the single biggest cause of fire in buildings, with more than 60 per cent of imported electrical cables used to build apartments and villas potentially a fire hazard.

Mohammed Saleh Badri, the acting director general of Esma, said the cables were made of substandard materials such as aluminium and steel instead of copper, and so were likely to overheat, causing short-circuits and fires.

To address the problem, Esma plans to introduce fines from next year for anyone found handling such cables - whether importers and distributors or the contractors who install them.

As well as fines, the authority plans tests aimed at weeding out substandard wires. All cables, whether locally manufactured or imported, will face rigorous tests.

Only those that pass will be allowed on the market, and will bear the Emirates Conformity Assessment Scheme (Ecas) conformity mark.

ykakande@thenational.ae