Mother and her five children die in house fire

Sixteen-year-old girl remains critically ill in hospital after the blaze, of which she and her father were the only survivors

Police and Fire Brigade officers were last night investigating a house fire that killed a mother and five of her children early yesterday. A 16-year-old girl, who with her father escaped the blaze at the house in north London, remains in a critical condition in hospital.

Nur Kua suffered head and back injuries after jumping from an upstairs window as fire tore through her family's semi-detached house in Neasden. Her mother, Muna El-Mufatish, 41, was killed, along with Nur's brothers Yehya, two, and Mustafa, five, and her sisters Amal, nine, Basma, 13, and Hanin, 14.

The children's father, Bassam Kua, 51, also escaped the fire and was receiving treatment at the same hospital as his daughter, St Mary's in Paddington. He was said to be in a stable condition, suffering from burns and smoke inhalation.

More than 30 firefighters were called to the fire just before 1am yesterday and managed to stop it spreading to neighbouring houses.

The family is understood to have come to Britain from Palestine as refugees about 17 years ago. Neighbours described them as a strict and traditional Muslim family.

Fariha Blaaza, 16, a friend of Nur's, said: "We'd just started college together and we were really happy. I last saw her at Friday break time... They had strict parents but Nur was outgoing with people she knew."

Mrs El-Mufatish and four of her children were found dead at the scene. Mustafa, her five-year-old son, was in cardiac arrest when emergency teams arrived, and could not be resuscitated.

Mr Kua, who was conscious yesterday in hospital, was said to be asking for his wife and children to be buried quickly in accordance with Muslim tradition. Funerals are unlikely, however, until investigations conclude.

The blaze is being investigated by the Metropolitan Police and London Fire Brigade. Forensic examinations were ongoing last night as police with dogs checked the property.

A neighbour, Nadeem Daad, said yesterday that he had witnessed the fire, adding: "I heard a bang and saw the flames going through the house. I also heard screaming."

There will be a memorial assembly on Monday at the Crest Girls' Academy in Neasden, where Basma, Hanin and, until recently, Nur were pupils. Schoolfriends of Basma said that she was a talented student who was top of year nine in almost every subject. Hanin, 14, had just completed a Duke of Edinburgh award and was hoping to go to university.

Leila Nasir, 13, was in the same class as Basma. Standing at the nearby police cordon in tears, she said: "At the last lesson on Friday I was sitting next to her. It was a science lesson. Basma was the best in everything."

A spokesman at the Harrow Road mosque, which the family attended, said he had spoken to Mr Kua's sister after she had visited her brother in hospital. He said: "She told me he was in a lot of pain but shouting that his family should be buried in accordance with Muslim law."

A police spokesman said that the fire had started in the downstairs hallway of the house. He confirmed: "At this time we're treating it as non-suspicious circumstances."

Additional reporting by Emily Kilner

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