x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Husband disputes account of blaze rescues

Husband who lost wife and child in Al Ain house fire and other witnesses dispute the Civil Defence account of events.

Husband who lost wife and child in Al Ain house fire and other witnesses dispute the Civil Defence account of events.
Husband who lost wife and child in Al Ain house fire and other witnesses dispute the Civil Defence account of events.

AL AIN // Al Ain Civil Defence yesterday praised the quick and effective response of firemen in its first official account of last month's blaze that killed a mother and her five-year-old son.

In the statement, Civil Defence said emergency workers arrived at the fire within five minutes of receiving the 999 call, and had the fire extinguished 15 minutes later.

During the blaze in the city's Al Jimi district, one of the home's occupants, Ahmed Shaheen, 30, from Jordan, drove his 4x4 Mitsubishi Pajero through the wall of the room in which 16 people were trapped. Fourteen people were rescued through the hole.

But his 28-year-old wife, Tahrir, and five-year-old son, Khalilallah, died in the fire. Mrs Shaheen had run back inside the burning building in a bid to rescue her children, he and other witnesses have said.

Reading the Civil Defence statement, Mr Shaheen said: "There are quite a few inaccuracies in this statement, but I will not discuss them in such a public forum as the media. I will visit the Minister of the Interior's office and share my side of the facts.

"I want to thank all those who came to the aid of my family that night, including members of the Al Ain Traffic Police and CID and the special forces officers, who all arrived on the scene within moments and saw what actually happened."

The Civil Defence statement said that after Mr Shaheen crashed his 4x4 through the wall, their personnel entered the burning building, rescued the 14 women trapped inside and pulled out the two who had died.

Mr Shaheen and other witnesses had said he and two neighbours entered the house through the hole and pulled the women to safety.

The Shaheen family also said rescuers arrived at the scene 15 minutes after they were called, that when they arrived they refused to enter the premises to rescue the trapped women, and that not enough ambulances were sent, forcing the family to rush four adults and a nine-month-old to the hospital in a private car.

"The rescue technicians didn't want to enter the house until firefighters arrived," he said. "We told them that 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."

The Civil Defence statement said the fire was caused by faulty wiring in the home. It added the home had been illegally partitioned and attachments made of easily flammable materials that included wood and asbestos. "Civil Defence rescued 16 inhabitants in the house, two of which were dead," the starement read." They were all taken to the hospital [by rescue workers], except for one, who was taken to the hospital by a member of the public.

"The cause of the fire was dangerous electrical wiring that was placed randomly in the house. Civil Defence secured the site so no one would approach, but meanwhile, one of the house's inhabitants broke down a wall from the west side of the house alone because he had knowledge of people trapped in a wooden room that was unknown to the Civil Defence.

"They were all unconscious from smoke inhalation, so a hole was made in the roof to allow air to come in."

Mr Shaheen categorically denied that they had altered the house. They said they had rented it exactly as it was when day the blaze erupted. Mr Shaheen added he had no idea that the wiring was faulty.

ealghalib@thenational.ae