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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Sharjah fire: Dozens lived in cramped house where woman and child died

Dozens others hurt and homes evacuated after late-night blaze

The house where a woman and her son died after a fire broke out on Monday night. Salam Al Amir / The National
The house where a woman and her son died after a fire broke out on Monday night. Salam Al Amir / The National

A woman and her son died in a house fire in Sharjah that injured 64 others, including her elderly parents.

The Pakistani woman, 43, and her seven-year-old son died after suffering from severe burns and smoke inhalation when the fire tore through the property in the crowded Maysaloon area of the emirate at almost 10pm on Monday.

The woman’s parents, in their late 60s, managed to escape the house and shouted for help. They were rescued by firefighters and taken to Sheikh Khalifa Hospital, according to Safeer, their 28-year-old Indian neighbour.

Akhtar Khan, who lives next door to the victims, said the woman is survived by her husband, a 9-year-old son and 8 other family members who had travelled to Pakistan three days before the fire.

The area in Maysaloon, Sharjah, where the woman's home once stood. Salam Al Amir / The National
The area in Maysaloon, Sharjah, where the woman's home once stood. Salam Al Amir / The National

Nandy, a Sri Lankan woman, 45, living in a two-story building behind the house awoke to the sound of explosions that night.

“I rushed to see what was happening, I don’t think I have ever seen so much smoke and fire in my life,” she said.

Her building’s tenants ran outside, fearing the fire would spread to their homes. She said police arrived shortly afterwards and began evacuating the area.

“We were not allowed back before 9am the next morning,” she said, adding that her husband, who suffers from asthma, was badly affected by the smoke and had to go to hospital.

A source at Sharjah Civil Defence said the fire broke out in an old house that had been sub-letted by the tenant. The man had installed partitions to create nearly 60 rooms to accommodate about 66 people. It is unclear how many rooms the house originally contained.

Sharjah Municipality frequently inspects areas of the emirate for illegal subletting and overcrowded housing, which is a health and safety hazard.

Khalifa Al Suwaidi, assistant director general of Sharjah municipality’s engineering and building sector said that those caught breaching the law are given a short grace period to remedy the situation. Should the tenant not comply, the municipality disconnects utilities and raises legal action against them.

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"The municipality is making efforts to ensure safe and that the emirate remains the ideal destination for family housing," Mr Al Suwaidi said.

After the fire was extinguished and the site cooled, Sharjah Police cordoned off the area and forensic teams collected evidence to determine the cause of the blaze.

On Tuesday, neighbours in the area speculated a gas cylinder could have been responsible.

“People are saying that some of the Pakistani tenants who lived in that house told them that the cause of the fire was due to a gas cylinder explosion, but we don’t know for sure,” said Seenat, an Indian woman who lives next door.

She too said she woke up to the sound of explosions and peoples’ screams outside.

The fire spread to the woman's car that was parked outside the house. Salam Al Amir / The National
The fire spread to the woman's car that was parked outside the house. Salam Al Amir / The National

“The deceased woman’s car was parked right in front of the house after she returned from work in Dubai and was completely gutted by the fire, firefighters put the fire out then moved the vehicle to the backstreet,” said Seenat, 55.

Col Sami Al Naqbi, director general of Sharjah Civil Defence, said emergency services were called at 9.43pm and arrived on the scene within two minutes.

Tenants of the villa and others from neighbouring houses were forced to flee their homes due to be the intensity of the fire, which smoke spread to a nearby building.

The blaze was brought under the control after about 30 minutes, Col Al Naqbi said.