The loss of one child is devastating. The loss of seven? Unimaginable.
But that’s the grim reality the Barho family faces after all seven of the family’s children died in a house fire in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The family from Syria sought refuge in Canada in 2017 to escape the civil war that’s decimated their home country.
The fire struck early Tuesday morning, Halifax Regional Police said in a statement. A neighbor said she heard a loud noise at the time the blaze started.
“I heard a huge bang … followed by a woman screaming, so I jumped up out of bed and looked out the back window, and all I could see was flames shooting out from the back door going out onto their deck,” Danielle Burt told CNN partner CBC. “It happened all so fast. The house went up really quickly.”
The father, Ebraheim Barho, was badly injured trying to rescue his children and is hospitalized in critical condition, according to the HEART Society, the East Hants, Nova Scotia-based refugee team that sponsored the family.
The mother, Kawthar Barho, escaped uninjured but is devastated over the loss of her children.
“She’s finding it difficult to accept what has happened, and she just repeats the name of her children over and over again and asks to see them,” HEART Society member Natalie Horne told CBC.
The children were identified in a post on the Facebook page of the mosque where their funeral will be held:
— Ahmed, 15;
— Rola, 12;
— Mohammed, 10;
— Ghala, 8;
— Hala, 4;
— Rana, 3;
— Abdullah, 4 months old.
“For the past year and a half, the children have been able to enjoy life as kids should be able to: going to school, riding bicycles, swimming, having friends, running in the yard, celebrating birthday parties and hanging out with the neighbours on their porch swing,” the HEART Society wrote in an online post. “They loved every minute of it, and it seems impossible we won’t hear their laughter and feel their hugs again.”
The family received a warm welcome back in September 2017 when they first came to Canada. A YouTube video of the family’s arrival at the airport in Halifax shows the Barhos descending down an escalator as a small crowd, some waving signs shaped like maple leaves, cheered.
The family had planned on moving to a town north of Halifax next week, the HEART Society said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has worked to make Canada a welcoming place for refugees, expressed his condolences in a tweet, saying “words fail when children are taken from us too soon.”
Friends of the family started a GoFundMe page that by Wednesday afternoon had already raised more than $279,000 to help them with expenses, including finding a new home.
At a vigil for the children, held Tuesday night in front of the remains of the burned home, neighbors tried to grapple with the tragedy.
“I don’t think there are words for a mother right now, to have lost all of her children,” neighbor Melissa Hawks told CBC. “I hope she knows that the community is here for her and I hope over time she’ll be able to become strong again,”