Seven children from a young Syrian family have died in an early morning house fire in Halifax.
Halifax house Shooting
Halifax police confirm the fatalities and say a man with life-threatening injuries and a woman with non-life-threatening injuries were taken to hospital.
Multiple sources tell Global News the victims are all members of a Syrian refugee family that came to Nova Scotia in 2017.
Emergency crews were called to a home on Quartz Drive in Spryfield at around 1 a.m. Tuesday, and found heavy fire on the first and second floors of the house.
Next-door neighbour Danielle Burt says she was awoken around 12:30 a.m. by a loud sound.
“I heard a huge bang, and I was laying in bed with my daughter, and followed by a woman screaming. So I jumped out of bed and looked out the back window and all I could see was flames shooting out from the back door going onto their deck,” Burt said.
“It happened all so fast and the house went up really quickly.”
She fled her house with her four children and saw the parents outside in a harrowing scene.
“The mother was on the grass, praying I guess, bowing her hands down, and pulling on my husband’s arm to call 911,” she said, becoming emotional.
“She said the kids were inside and the dad was sitting on the steps. I think he had gone back in because he was really burnt. It was just awful.”
They came to Canada in September 2017 as a sponsored Syrian refugee family, and arrived with much fanfare at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport. At the time of their arrival, the mother told a local news outlet that she felt “happiness” to be in Canada.
Loai Al Rifai of the Nova Scotia Syrian Society confirms the identity of the family.
The Ummah Mosque and Community Centre in Halifax confirmed with Global News they have been providing assistance to the family in the wake of the tragedy. In a Facebook post, the mosque indicated burials could take place Tuesday or Wednesday.
Community affected by tragedy
Halifax District Fire Chief Mike Blackburn said the fire was very heavy when they arrived, but firefighters were able to “knock it down” quickly.
He wouldn’t discuss the number of deaths, but suggested firefighters were deeply affected by what they saw.
“They’ll process this over time but it’s very difficult and it’s not going to get any easier,” he said.
Area councillor Steve Adams says the entire community has been affected by the tragedy, and is reminding people to seek help if they need it.
“If you need help, ask. It’s available. I’ve been in touch with the mayor and deputy mayor Tony Mancini and Mike Savage as well and everyone in the municipality -– whatever we can do we will do,” Adams said.
“We’re hoping that the schools reach out and the support services we have in place are fully available and ready to go.”
Investigation into cause of fire continues
The home, which is in a newly-constructed neighbourhood, appears to have extensive damage to the upper floor.
The damage is especially evident in the back of the home.
Another neighbour says he called 911 and rushed over to help but says there wasn’t much they could do as the flames… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Alicia Draus (@Alicia_Draus) February 19, 2019
The street has been closed to both pedestrian and vehicle traffic as the investigation continues, and police are asking people to stay out of the area.
— With files from The Canadian Press, Alicia Draus and Elizabeth McSheffrey
Jese Bal born Nov 9, 1982, is a novelist and poet. He has published novels, volumes of poetry, short stories, and drawings. His works are distinguished by the use of a spare style and have been compared to those of Jorge Luis Borges and Italo Calvino.