Eight members of family killed in Barka fire

At 10 years, twin sisters Safa and Marwa, both blind since birth, knew the Holy Quran by heart. Their family had hoped they would one day regain their sight. But that wasn’t to be. A fire that broke out in their Barka home in the early hours of Tuesday snuffed out their lives along with five others in their family. The deceased include a mother, five daughters, including the twins, a cousin and a domestic help. They were sleeping on the first floor of the single-storied house, where they died of asphyxiation after the fire — which broke out on the ground floor at around 4.30 am — engulfed their house.

The deceased have been identified as Noorul Huda, wife of Ali Khamis al Mayahi, their daughters Thuqa (14), Yaqeen (12), twins Safa and Marwa, Ruwa (8), cousin Salma, a student of Higher College of Technology, and a domestic help. The Public Authority for Civil Defence and Ambulance (PACDA) said the firefighters rushed to the spot at around 4.35 am after they were alerted by a neighbour and put out the blaze. The cause of the fire is not known. The loss has left the family members shattered. “We were hoping Safa and Marwa would be able to see the colours of the world one day,” said their maternal cousin Moosa bin Salem al Bahri.

“The family was so excited when they (the twins) memorised the Holy Quran in Braille language at such a young age,” said Al Bahri. “But the joy didn’t last long.” Ali’s new house, built after years of hard work, stands as mute witness to the tragedy that wiped out the entire family. He is the only survivor. Neighbours, who have fond memories of the family, found it hard to accept the fact that the family members were no more. “Ali’s family members were very nice. We will miss them,” said a neighbour.

While the cause of the fire is not known, the PACDA officials urged the people to exercise caution while handling household electrical appliances. “We urge the people to use original and quality electrical fittings and be moderate in using electricity. Never leave any electrical gadgets unattended; switch off air-conditioners/ heaters when not in use,” said a senior PACDA official. Ensure children don’t meddle with electrical gadgets, he cautioned. The authority also urged all engineers to install smoke detectors in houses under construction.

KABEER YOUSUF & LAKSHMI KOTHANETH