Two children killed in house blaze

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Two children died today after a blaze engulfed their home and forced their mother to leap from a window, on fire, screaming "save my kids".

The youngsters, named locally as Aleena Shah, 10, and her brother Aman, eight, were trapped in what firefighters have called an "extremely severe fire" in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

Their 30-year-old mother, Irum Shah, is thought to have jumped from a window to escape.

Tonight a 21-year-old man is being quizzed by police in connection with the fire.

Neighbours described how they had to beat out the flames which engulfed Mrs Shah as she pleaded for someone to save her children.

Mrs Shah was taken to Pinderfields Hospital, in Wakefield, and is said to have suffered "life-threatening" injuries.

People living in Hendford Drive said the blaze was extremely intense with flames darting from windows and the roof.

The children's uncle and a 19-year-old neighbour, Fazal Mohammed, smashed the windows to try and rescue the children.

But they were beaten back by the heat as other people tried to douse the fire with buckets of water.

Firefighters said the neighbours had performed heroics but even officers wearing protective gear and breathing apparatus struggled against the intense heat.

Neighbour Zaiwab Maqsood, 17, said: "The flames were huge, they were coming out of the roof.

"We went to help her because she was screaming for help. We were patting her to put the flames out but she had been badly burned.

"I wrapped her in a towel because her clothes had been burnt. We picked her up because they had started to break the windows to try and get in.

"But she was screaming 'just save my kids, just save my kids'. She just kept screaming and screaming it over and over again."

Miss Maqsood said Mr Mohammed and the children's uncle managed to break the glass but the flames were too ferocious for anyone to go inside.

"Everyone from every house was out carrying buckets and trying to help," she said.

"They were just normal kids. They loved playing and doing all the things children do. They were often in our garden just playing. They were so respectful.

"They would ask my mum if she wanted help with her bags when she'd been shopping.

"They were in my garden yesterday playing with my sister. Then the boy, Aman, was helping fix my brother's bike. It just so tragic.

She said Mrs Shah is a "brilliant person".

"She's always chatting and joking," Miss Maqsood said. "It's so terrible what's happened to her."

Miss Maqsood said the family had lived in the house for about five years after moving from a short distance away.

Mr Mohammed, who lives next door to the gutted house, described how he tried to smash his way into the house after finding the woman in flames outside.

He said: "I heard a woman screaming. I came outside the house to see a woman on fire. She had flames all over herself.

"I just rolled her on the ground but she was saying 'My kids are inside, my kids are inside'.

"I went to smash the windows but I couldn't get in. There were too many flames.

"It's really upsetting. They're a good family."

He was sporting a freshly bandaged hand and wrist after being injured during the rescue attempt.

Police and firefighters were called to the house at about 12.40am.

Many of the homes surrounding it are boarded up awaiting demolition and people living nearby said the abandoned buildings have been plagued by arsonists in recent weeks.

The children were pupils at the nearby Byron Primary School.

Neighbours also said the children's father lived at the house but was not at home when the fire broke out.

Chris Clarke, who leads the West Yorkshire fire investigation team, said firefighters wearing breathing apparatus battled their way up the stairs and passed the boy out of a bedroom window.

He said he could not say at this stage where the girl's body was found.

"People were desperate to get into that house and actually did perform some really heroic acts, as did the firefighters. It was a really intense fire," he said.

"Those firefighters who went into that house, even with the equipment that they've got, were on the edge.

"I wouldn't have expected anybody who didn't have the appropriate firefighting gear and breathing apparatus to get anywhere near the house."

Detective Superintendent Bill Shackleton, from West Yorkshire Police, said: "I would particularly like to speak to anyone who may have information about anyone buying petrol in small cans in the Bradford area either yesterday evening or in the early hours of this morning."