Deadly Mahaica fire: Children were playing with matches

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A preliminary investigation into the fire that claimed that lives of two sisters at Mahaica, East Coast Demerara (ECD) on Wednesday revealed that the children, who were left unattended, were playing with matches.

Fire Chief (ag), Gregory Wickham told the News Room on Wednesday that as the probe continues, a preliminary investigation revealed that the matches ignited with a mattress, resulting in the fire.

The burnt remains of the house (Photo: News Room/June 08, 2023)

Nine-year-old Anamika Hardat and her three-year-old sister, Shameena Hardat perished after the fire gutted their Lot 60-61 Belmont, Mahaica, ECD house around 13:07 hrs.

The house, which is owned by Ayube Mohamed Khan, was separated into three apartments and was occupied by 79-year-old Zaman Khan and his family of 11. Anamika and Shameena lived in one of the apartments with their mother, Bibi Shabeekha Khan, her partner and their two brothers.

When the fire erupted, the girls were alone in the apartment and despite efforts by neighbours and relatives, they could not have been saved since the apartment was not easily accessible.

It is believed that Anamika, who had a disability, experienced difficulty existing the house.

In an interview with the News Room on Wednesday, their mother, Shabeekha Khan, who is finding it hard to cope, recalled her last moment with her daughters.

She had already sent her two sons to school but the girls stayed home because they were not well.

“I look after them girls, I feed them whilst them boys gone to school. I carry them on the road, I take out passport picture and I bring them home back,” she said.

The distraught mother said she left home for the Cove and John Police Station to collect child support after which she ventured to Georgetown to purchase school supplies for them.

It was while she was on her way home that she was informed of the fire.

“The first phone call, ‘let me come home that my house on fire’ and I tell them yall see wah yall could do because I won’t reach in time. Get the kids them from the house,” she related.

The children’s mother, Shabeekha Khan (Photo: News Room/June 08, 2023)

“…I deh in a bus…I can’t reach in time. When they call me, they said the fire did just start light…I didn’t know what happen. Like I didn’t believe what they telling me,” the distraught mother told the News Room.

Pointing out that raising her children has not been an easy task, Khan said despite the hardships, they kept her happy.

“I try to be the best and do the best. As a mother with four kids, it’s not easy and I still try…And I still grieve because they is the one that keeping me so happy. I always try to keep me and my kids them safe,” she said as she fought to hold back tears.

The News Room spoke to neighbours, who accused Khan of constantly locking the children in the house and leaving them unattended.

Nesha Singh, a neighbour, said Khan’s brother, who occupied one of the apartments with his family, desperately tried to save the children.

“The brother go, the brother bruk one door, the second door couldn’t bruk. He jump on the zinc, he bruk the window… He cannot pull the child because there was grill and there is fire,” Singh told the News Room.

Khan and her family, as well as the other relatives who were displaced, are now left contemplating their next move.

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