A displaced family’s tragic story
Catastrophic fire at a Kirkuk IDP camp leaves four children dead

February 7, 2019 at 2:17 pm

Kirkuk- Four children died in a tent fire at Nazrawa IDP camp, February 5, 2019 Photo: Goran Baban

Karwan Salhi & Goran Baban- Kirkuk

The flames were quickly spreading, as Nwara and her husband, Hussein, were desperately trying to rescue their four children trapped inside their burning tent. Nwara was screaming and crying for help.

Sabriya Salih who lives in a nearby tent came to the rescue. “I hurried o the scene as soon I heard the screaming, I saw Nwara and her husband trying to put out the tent fire and save their children”, she told (Kirkukow).

“The mother was helplessly shouting and asking the crowd to save her children, but unfortunately the fate had other plans”, she said.

All the efforts to rescue the trapped children were in vain. In a matter of minutes the devastating blaze turned everything it touched into ash, and the four children died.

The incident took place at around 10 p.m. on Monday February 4th, 2019. Hussein Hameed, his wife Nwara Abdul-Aziz and their four children had just gone to sleep when the fire broke out.

“We were asleep inside the tent when our tent caught fire, I was dragged out of the tent”, Hussein said later.

Nwara in critical conditions after she lost her four children in the fire Photo: Karwan Salhi

Hussein and his wife were the only survivors of their six-member-family. They both suffered serious burns and were receiving treatment at Kirkuk’s Azadi public hospital, where they were interviewed by our correspondent.

Nwara, who was still under the effects of sedation and the heartbreaking loss of her children, spoke about that ill-fated day.

“The children were playing in outside, and I told them to come home because it was too cold and I wanted them to do their homework”, she said.

Three of her four children: Hameed 12, Muhammad 9, Laith 7 and Majeed 2 died instantly and the fourth died in hospital.

Sabriya Salih, a day after the incident was examining the damage at the scene of the tragedy. “Save us from this prison… We had enough of this suffering; every single day someone here dies of a tragic incident”, she said with her eyes filling with tears as she held one of Laith’s books in her hands. “Where is the government? Where are the officials?”, she said loudly.

As many as 340 families mostly from Kirkuk’s southwestern Hawija are sheltered in Nazrawa camp where the tragic incident took place. They are unable to return home due to a variety of reasons.

Friends and classmates examine burned books belonged to the victims Photo: Goran Baban

Kazim, one of Laith’s classmates says “He was a clever student at the 4th grade; he was often awarded by the teachers for his intelligence. I am so saddened for what happened to him.”

The Hussein family fled Hawija in 2016, only a year before the ouster of the Islamic State (IS) group from their town which they overran in 2014.

Ali Hameed, Hussein’s brother says Hussein was a construction worker, and he often returned to the camp in the evening.

“Their area was recaptured in 2017, but they (Hussein’s family) were unable to return because of the lack of basic services and the fact that his family had still not been granted the permission for return by the local security departments”, Ali told (KirkukNow).

Hawija and its surrounding areas were retaken from IS in 2017; however the town suffers the lack of essential services and those who are willing to return must pass through scrutiny measures by the national security department before obtaining permission.”

Ghanim Khalil, one of the neighbors who witnessed the tragedy said, “We immediately rushed to help put out the fire, but unfortunately we couldn’t save the children.”

The bodies of the victims were taken to the morgue before they were taken for burial in their hometown, Hawija.

Hussein Hameed suffered serious burns while trying to save his children Photo: Karwan Salhi

Though it is unclear what started the fire, some witnesses said it was caused by a kerosene heater, while some others believe it was because of an electrical failure. The incident is now being investigated.

Colonel Salahaddin Sabir, Laylan sub-district police chief, speaking to (KirkukNow) said, “Sadly, this was not the first incident occurs in the IDP camps located in Laylan; most of these cases are related to electrical failure because IDPs here do not receive adequate amounts of kerosene ; however our investigations will continue.”

There are currently four IDP camps in Laylan. The number of displaced families in Nazrawa camp has diminished in the last two years; therefore authorities are planning to transport the remaining families to another camp.

Haj Faisal, a 68-year-old man settled in Nazrawa camp expressed concern regarding the living condition of IDPs in the camp. He said the camp is deprived of basic services, indicating that they are not getting the help needed in emergency situations like the one Hussein’s family had to face.

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