TYRE, Lebanon: A 14-year-old boy died in a fire Wednesday night as he tried to save his home in Tyre, while his family members were transported to a nearby hospital to be treated for burns and asphyxiation. Witnesses told The Daily Star that the deceased, Mohammad Zaatar, had initially escaped the fire unscathed and assisted in getting his family members to safety, but later re-entered the building in an attempt to prevent his home from being destroyed.
The teen was described as “hardworking, smart, polite and excellent in academics and sports.” Photos shared by family members Thursday showed Mohammad wearing his school uniform and participating in a running event.
The fire, which broke out in the Zaatar residence near the Jumblatt roundabout in south Lebanon’s Tyre, is believed to have been caused by an electrical problem, sources said.
Civil Defense units extinguished the fire and Red Cross ambulances transported Mohammad’s parents to Tyre’s Lebanese Italian Hospital.
Medical sources in Tyre said that Mohammad’s elderly father, Mahmoud Zaatar, sustained burns and had suffered from suffocation but was now in stable condition.
Mahmoud, who remains in hospital, also suffers from blood cancer and amnesia. He was reportedly unaware, as of 10 a.m. Thursday, that his son had perished in the blaze.
“Why isn’t Mohammad coming to visit me?” he asked those around him, confused as to how he had come to be hospitalized.
Mahmoud’s wife also suffered minor asphyxiation as a result of the fire, the sources said, and still had not been notified of her son’s death.
Although the parents hadn’t been initially told, the extended family had notified Mohammad’s school.
Security forces were conducting an initial investigation Thursday evening into the cause of the fire.
The incident follows other recent house fires caused by electrical faults. A Palestinian couple and their three children were killed in their apartment in south Lebanon’s Nabatieh early Monday when a fire erupted after a reported electrical issue.
A deadly house fire in January also raised public scrutiny toward the Civil Defense when a mother and her two adult children living in Beirut’s Zeidanieh area were killed amid what some criticized as a slow response by firefighters.