Fujairah: Tragedy struck a small village on the east coast of the UAE early on Monday morning when seven siblings belonging to Al Suraidi family died in their sleep due to suffocation after a fire broke out in their room.
The quiet mountain community of Rul Dhadna, near Dibba Fujairah, was in a state of shock as they laid to rest an entire family in their ancestral graveyard, facing the East Coast road.
Hundreds of villagers and residents from the neighbouring towns and villages attended the funeral, offering condolences to the remaining members of the family, which includes the grieving mother, a grandfather, uncles and cousins.
The siblings were orphans as their father passed away five years ago.
The narrow streets of the village, which are not accustomed to having too many visitors, were clogged as scores of motorists lined up to visit the family’s house and the graveyard.
As the village’s main mosque overflowed with mourners the authorities decided to organise the funeral prayers in the graveyard.
Bodies of the victims, four girls and three boys aged between five and 13, were first brought by three ambulances to their grandfather’s ancestral home before heading to the graveyard after the Dhuhr (noon) prayers.
The extent of the tragedy dawned on many villagers only when the seven bodies, including those of five-year-old twins Sara and Sumaiya, were brought out from the ambulances and laid down one by one for prayers in the graveyard.
Pain in the eyes and on the faces of the mourners was too obvious to miss, but most of them remained steadfast, praising Allah and praying for the deceased.
“This is biggest tragedy to hit this village in my memory, I have had a long life but I have never seen so many bodies together, this is too painful, but one cannot do much before the will of God,” said Mohammad Zakariya, an old villager, who is also a relative of the family hit by the tragedy.
Following the funeral prayers the community members showed great spirit in helping the family bury the bodies, with many young and old folks seen getting down in the graves to complete the last rites.
Following the funeral, an uncle of the deceased children Rashid Khamis Al Suraidi broke down as he spoke to Gulf News about the incident.
“This is the will of Allah Almighty, and we will bear this patiently and pray for the little children who departed so tragically. When we got to know about the fire we reached immediately but we couldn’t do much to save the children,” said Al Suraidi, speaking about the untimely demise of his little nephews and nieces.
Another member of Al Suraidi family, Abdullah Rashid, who was among the first to reach the spot when the tragedy struck, said the fire is suspected to have caused by an electrical short circuit.
“The house was in poor condition and was badly in need of maintenance. There was an issue with electricity. They could not connect too many appliances at the same time. At night my aunt (mother of the deceased) used to switch of all the appliances but she would keep the TV switched on with the Quran channel and most probably the fire must have started from a short circuit in TV,” said Abdullah, who is a cousin of the deceased children.
He added that the children’s mother returned home on Sunday after receiving treatment in Thailand.
“My aunt is ill, she woke up at 3am to take an injection and when she came out of her room she could only see smoke. She immediately alerted the neighbours and relatives. The smoke was so bad, nobody could enter the room to save the children. By the time emergency personnel arrived, the children were already dead,” said Abdullah.
Meanwhile, the authorities have cordoned off the house and no visitors are being allowed there. Police and forensic officials are currently investigating the cause of fire.
The funeral was held in the ancestral home of children’s grandfather Mohammad Saeed.
The deceased have been identified as Ahmad Saeed Rabiaa, Grade 5, Dhadna School; Shaikha Saeed Rabiaa, Grade 4, Al Ma’rifa School; Ali Saeed Rabiaa, Grade 3, Dhadna School; Shouk Saeed Rabiaa, Grade 8, Al Raheeb School; Khalifa Saeed Rabiaa, Grade 7, Anas Bin Al Nadhair School; Ahmad Saeed Rabiaa, Grade 5, Dhadna School; Shaikha Saeed Rabiaa, Grade 4, Al Ma’rifa School; Ali Saeed Rabiaa, Grade 3, Dhadna School; Sara Saeed Rabiaa, KG1, Al Dana Kindergarten; Sumaiya Saeed Rabiaa, KG1, Al Dana Kindergarten.
‘The whole bus cried’
At 7 in the morning, school bus driver Amanullah Khan was on his routine run to pick the students up from Rul Dhadna. When he approached the Al Suraidi family home to pick Ahmad, Shaikha and Ali, the children were missing, instead he saw police and civil defence officials surrounding the house.
When Khan and the bus attendant heard the news they couldn’t believe their ears.
“When the attendant came back with the news she broke down and I couldn’t hold back my tears. As the other children in the bus came to know about the tragic incident they also started crying. I couldn’t drive the bus for several minutes. What has happened is just unbelievable,” said Khan, who has known the three children for several years.
Khan said eight-year-old Ali, who was in Grade 3, was the naughtiest.
“His laughter and chatter still ring in my ears. He was always up to something. Alk three were lovely children, so full of life and energy. We can only pray for them now and I know they are in paradise,” said the driver.
The Ministry of Education issued a statement, mourning the death of the students. The ministry offered condolences to the family of the seven siblings who died in the tragic incident.
Fire safety awareness can save lives
Seven children of an Emirati family suffocated to death in a fire broke out in their house in Fujairah’s Rul Dhadna district early yesterday, highlighting gthe need for greater
fire safety awareness in the UAE.
HOW TO CONTROL A FIRE
Fire needs three elements: Heat, fuel and oxygen. The three elements are interdependent so removing even one of them will kill the fire.
1 Inform others as quickly as possible.
2 Check what has happened. If you can fight the fire, do it, but if you can’t, evacuate and help others evacuate.
3 If you are sure that there is no one leƒ in the room that’s on fire, close the door, but do not lock it. Fire consumes oxygen in a contained space.
4 If the fire is contained in a small area, use a fire extinguisher to douse it.
5 Alert civil defence authorities.
In case a pan of oil catches fire, never throw water on it. Also never carry the pan anywhere.
• First, turn o the stove and use a metal lid, or a cookie sheet, to smother the fire.
• Wearing oven mitts, slide the lid slowly from the side and cover the pan.
• Leave it there until the pan cools completely. You can also do this with a fire blanket.
• You can also use baking soda to smother the fire.
• For microwave fires, turn off the main switch, or unplug the microwave, and leave it that way for 15 minutes.
• Never try to open it nor pour water.
PREVENTING SMOKE INHALATION
In case you get stuck in a smoke-filled room when evacuating, remember to stay low. Most deaths in house or building fires are not due to burns but due to smoke inhalation.
Smoke rises and occupies the top layer of the room. The bottom layer from one to three feet is where you can get fresh air which means oxygen, which is important for survival.
HOW TO USE A FIRE EXTINGUISHER
If using one indoors, take note of any wind source. If outdoors, first check the wind direction. You must be on the windward direction. Meaning, if the wind is coming from the east, use the extinguisher from that side.
HOW TO FIRE-PROOF YOUR HOUSE
1 Make sure that your fire extinguishers are well within reach and educate your older kids on how and when to use them.
2 Ensure all flammable substances including perfumes, deodorants, lighters, oils, and more are kept at high places and away from children’s reach.
3 Ensure that smoke alarms are installed and working properly. Last year, Hassantuk, a centralised fire-alarm receiving centre that connects all UAE buildings, residential, commercial and villas, was unveiled by the Ministry of Interior.
4 Use fire-resistant carpets and/or rugs.
5 Never overload power sockets and replace frayed wires.
6 Switch o power appliances. Unplug cables and extension cables every night if possible.
7 Keep scented candles away from curtains, carpets and Œflammable material. Use electric diffusers instead.
8 If buying your own furniture, try and get a fireproof spray that you can apply yourself, especially for bedrooms and nurseries.
MAJOR FIRES IN THE UAE
January 22, 2018: Seven children of an Emirati family, including five-year-old twins, suffocate to death after a fire breaks out in their house in Rol Dhadna district in Fujairah.
December 16, 2017: A worker dies in a fire that breaks out in Factory Mart in Ajman Industrial Mart.
May 5: Two Pakistani brothers, aged six and eight, die in a fire in their shared house in Al Ghafya area in Sharjah.
April 14: Two Asian men suffocate to death and five others are injured in a fire in Al Manama Supermarket in Sharjah.
April 7: A five-year-old girl suffocates to death in a fire at a villa in Al Warqa'a, Dubai. Five others are injured.
March 14: Twin Emirati sisters, aged 20, su“ocate to death in a villa fire in Al Twar area, Dubai.
January 6: Three workers die in a fire in a furniture warehouse in Kalba industrial area.
December 11, 2016: A 57-year-old Emirati woman dies in a villa fire in Ras Al Khaimah.
October 22: An Emirati mother and her two daughters suffocate to death in a villa fire in Sharjah.
August 24: Two women are critically injured and a baby injured in an explosion that ripped through their flat in Al Khail Gate, Dubai.
June 6: A mother and her two daughters die in a house fire in Al Ghafya area, Sharjah.
September 8, 2015: Two tenants die and one is severely injured as they try to escape a fire that ripped through a one-bedroom apartment in the England Cluster of Dubai International City.
February 20: 11 killed and seven injured in a massive fire that erupts in car and tyre shops located in a two-storey building in Musafah, Abu Dhabi.