Neasden fire victims mourned at assembly

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of school children gathered today for a moving assembly in memory of two "wonderful" teenage girls who were killed with their mother and three younger siblings in a house fire.

Grieving youngsters at Crest Academy were comforted by teachers as they mourned their classmates - Hanin Kua, 14, and her sister Basma, 13, who died when the blaze swept through their home in Neasden, north west London, in the early hours of Saturday.

During the short assembly held ahead of this morning's lessons, the school's pupils and staff paid tribute to the "popular, caring and diligent" pair who were killed alongside their mother Muna Elmufatish, 41, nine-year-old sister Amal and brothers Mustafa and Yehya, aged five and two.

Father Bassam Kua, 51, and 16-year-old daughter Nur escaped from the house but remain in hospital.

Addressing some 900 students - many of whom wept or held hands - Bev Bell, principal at Crest Academy, said: "The girls were well known, loved and respected by you all.

"We are so proud to have experienced their contribution to our lives within this academy."

Girls sat crying and hugging as Mrs Bell said: "Basma Kua and Hanin Kua died in the early hours of Saturday morning in a tragic fire in their home in Sonia Gardens.

"We also say goodbye to their three younger siblings who lost their lives in the fire on Saturday morning. Our thoughts and wishes go to Braintcroft Primary School for their loss too.

"Our thoughts must also go to Nur Kua and her father who are fighting for their lives and are the remaining members of this wonderful family in our school community."

An anonymous poem about the loss of a child was read out before the pupils were addressed by an imam.

Many sat where they were, reluctant to leave as the assembly concluded.

Earlier, a sombre atmosphere hung over the school as children and teachers arrived for classes.

They were directed to a memorial garden where many sat in silence. Speaking outside the school gates, Mrs Bell said Hanin and Basma had been "role models" for their fellow pupils.

"The whole community is very quiet and sombre at the moment," she added.

"It has hit them very, very hard indeed.

"There is a huge sense of loss felt by the whole school."

A counselling service for girls traumatised by the deaths is being offered at the school by a children's bereavement agency.

Today, flowers still lay at the school gates, along with messages of condolences to the family.

One read: "Basma, we love you, you will always remain in our hearts.

"You were loved by everyone."

Another, to her sister, read: "You will be remembered for ever."

Yesterday the principal also paid tribute to Nur Kua, a former student at Crest Academy, who remains in a critical condition in hospital. Her father's condition is described as stable.

Post-mortem examinations for the six family members who died were scheduled for this morning at Northwick Park mortuary.

London Fire Brigade said it was unable to comment at this stage on suggestions that the blaze had been caused by a faulty fridge.

It said in a statement: "Detailed investigations continue into the cause of the fire on Sonia Gardens in Neasden in the early hours of Saturday morning, in which a woman and her five children tragically lost their lives.

"It may be some time before these painstaking examinations are concluded and we know for certain how the fire started and had such devastating consequences."

London Fire Brigade later confirmed there was a Beko fridge-freezer at the scene of the blaze but said it was not thought to have been the cause.

"This is not forming part of the fire investigation at this time," it said in a statement.

The brigade issued a warning in July that there were up to 500,000 potentially faulty Beko fridge-freezers across the country which could pose a serious fire risk.

Beko said London Fire Brigade had confirmed to it that the fire was not caused by one of its fridge-freezers.

Ragip Balcioglu, managing director of Beko PLC said: "This is a deeply tragic incident and we offer our deepest condolences to the Kua family at this difficult time.

"The safety of all our products is Beko's highest priority. All our products are subject to rigorous independent testing to European standards. All our current range models are 100% safety compliant and safe for use."