Seven children from a family of Syrian refugees have died in a house fire in Canada’s eastern port city of Halifax, authorities have said.
“There are seven fatalities resulting from the incident,” police in the Atlantic seaboard city said on Tuesday.
“All deceased are believed to be young children from the same family. A woman and a man remain in hospital.”
Police said that the man had “life-threatening” injuries.
Canadian media reported that the children were aged between four months and 15 years.
The family moved to Canada in 2017 as refugees from Raqqa, Syria and had lived in their home in the province of Nova Scotia for about five months, according to local news reports.
Fire quickly engulfed the house after it started at around 12:30 am on Tuesday. An investigation into the fire’s cause is under way and could take months to complete.
The children’s father, 39-year-old Ebraheim Barho remains in hospital in critical condition along with their mother Kawthar al-Hamad, 40.
Neighbour Danielle Burt told Canadian media that she heard a woman screaming and jumped out of bed.
“I heard a huge bang, and I was laying in bed with my daughter, followed by a woman screaming, so I jumped up out of bed and looked out the back window and all I could see was flames shooting out from the back door going out onto their deck,” she said.
“It happened all so fast. The house went up really quickly.”
Burt said she grabbed her four children, ran outside, where she met the parents and called 911.
“[Kawthar] said that their kids were inside. The dad was sitting on the steps. I think he had gone back in because he was really burned,” Burt told Canadian CTV news. “It was just awful.”
Imam Ibrahim al-Shanti of the local Al-Barakah Mosque which the family attended said that the father is facing life-threatening injuries after running back into the house to try to save his children, while the mother is emotionally distressed.
“The mother, you know, she is trying to cope with it,” Shanti told CBC. “We all have hopes that they will survive this.”
In a Facebook post, the mosque identified the children as Abdullah, Rana, Hala, Ghala, Mohammed, Rola and Ahmed.
Shanti has launched a GoFundMe campaign for the parents which collected the equivalent of more than $150,000 within one day.
“We need to support them in facing their calamity and help them finding a new shelter and pay for expected expenses,” the campaign read.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his condolences on Twitter.
“Words fail when children are taken from us too too soon, especially in circumstances like this. My heart goes out to the survivors of the horrible fire in Halifax this morning, and the loved ones who are mourning this tremendous loss,” Trudeau wrote.
Steve Adams, city councillor for the Spryfield area, called the deaths a “horrible tragedy”. He told Canadian CBC News that most of the homes in the neighbourhood were new, built in the past two to five years.
Deputy Fire Chief Dave Meldrum said the firefighters encountered heavy fire on the first and second floors of the home that made it difficult to fight, CBC reported.
It’s the second fire in Nova Scotia that has claimed lives in just over a year, CBC reported. In January 2018, four children died in a house fire in the southwest part of the province.