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‘No one heard my little girls scream’

Karachi: The charred remains of yesterday’s memories are scattered at the entrance to the small house, situated near Larkana Bakery, in Sector 5-J, New Karachi. The small single entrance, white gate set ajar, awaits any grieving relatives who want to visit the bereaved family. The narrow flight of stairs lead to the two-room house of this family of eleven, Nageena, Saleem and their nine children. With the death of their 12-year-old daughter, Mahrukh, Nageena and Saleem, who had once thought they could never see any of their children die in front of them, are now trying to come to terms with what has happened.

Nageena, in her mid-thirties, seems to be a woman in control, but underneath that faÁade, she is in emotional shock as tears have deserted her as she comes to ters with losing her daughter. “I went out of the house on Monday afternoon at ten past one to buy household provisions. I was told that the fire started about ten minutes after I left. When I returned, I saw that the fire had been extinguished, and television personnel had convened to report. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, and besides, I cannot meet males that I do not know,” she said

According to Nageena, the house which is being built adjacent to theirs had a sloping roof. Whenever the overhead tank of the neighbouring building spilt over, water flowed over the roof of her house. “This was a short circuit problem,” she told The News. “Some people have mistakenly thought that I had left some electric appliances on but the fact is that we neither have a fridge nor a television. There was only a fan and a water pump in the house, nothing else. It was definitely a short circuit which caused a fire,” she said.

When Nageena left her house, she locked her two daughters in the house, thinking that this was the safest thing to do. But once the fire broke out, 12-year old Mahrukh and her little sister Hooriya were trapped inside. “My elder daughter was mentally slow, and was born prematurely. She was born in the seventh month of my pregnancy, and later she contracted polio. She was quiet, and did not talk much, but was of a cheerful disposition,” Nageena told The News.

Following the incident, nothing remains of the child who was burnt, not even photographs. Meanwhile, Hooriya, who was able to walk, managed to escape and was found weeping on the lowest flight of the staircase leading to the house, when her father came in to stop the fire. He picked up his little daughter, but when he reached upstairs, he saw that Mahrukh had been burnt badly and was lying near the bed.

“No one heard my little girls scream because there was loud music playing in the shops downstairs,” said Nageena. There is just silence in the street today, except for muffled sounds from video games being played in a small curtained shop to the left of the house.

Men of the family, Saleem and his two elder sons, try to escape the pangs of the tragedy and the heavy loss of their personal belongings. Nageena receives her relatives in a calm and controlled manner, but each time the door of the room closes, she starts to panic, conjuring up images of her burning daughter trapped inside the room. “Leave the door open,” she snaps testily at her youngest daughter.
Source: The News