13 Pakistanis, including 8 children, die in fire in Jordan

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A picture taken on December 2, 2019 shows the remains of a home where several Pakistani farmers were killed in a fire in the town of Shuna in Jordan, some 50 kilometres southwest of the capital Amman. Thirteen Pakistanis including eight children died. (AFP)
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A picture taken on December 2, 2019 shows the remains of a home where several Pakistani farmers were killed in a fire in the town of Shuna in Jordan, some 50 kilometres southwest of the capital Amman. Thirteen Pakistanis including eight children died. (AFP)
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A picture taken on December 2, 2019 shows the remains of a home where several Pakistani farmers were killed in a fire in the town of Shuna in Jordan, some 50 kilometres southwest of the capital Amman. Thirteen Pakistanis including eight children died. (AFP)
Updated 03 December 2019

13 Pakistanis, including 8 children, die in fire in Jordan

  • Three other people were taken to hospital suffering from shock and burns
  • Thousands of foreign laborers live in tough conditions in private farms in the Jordan Valley

AMMAN: Jordan’s Prime Minister Omar Razzaz expressed sorrow over the death of 13 Pakistanis, including eight children, in a fire.

They had been living in agricultural structures in the Jordan Valley, and early reports indicate that the fire was caused by an electrical short.

Jordanian government spokesman Amjad Adaileh told Arab News that Razzaz has established a committee to look into the cause of the fire, and it “will include members of the Civil Defense and Interior Ministry.”

Adaileh tweeted: “Sincere condolences and sympathies to our Pakistani brothers who died as a result of this painful incident … and our prayers for a speedy recovery to the injured.”

Al-Mamlaka TV quoted Iyad Amro, spokesman for the Civil Defense Directorate, as saying the fire took place at 2:08 a.m. and eight children, four women and a man were killed.

Hadeel Abdel Aziz, executive director of the Justice Center for Legal Aid in Jordan, told Arab News: “The government continues to disregard clear evidence about the environment of workers and the need to regulate the labor market, especially in the agricultural sector, and to enhance regulation and protection for laborers in this sector.”

She said: “Ignoring the conditions of work for foreign workers, and treating it as unimportant because they’re non-Jordanian, is counterproductive and does more harm to the country.”

Labor Ministry official Bilal Al-Majali said a special set of bylaws will be introduced soon to deal with the working conditions of agriculture workers. 

He added that major amendments to the Labor Law are being worked on. 

“The changes will include the work environment and issues of the health and well-being of all workers, including foreign workers,” he told Arab News.

A spokeswoman for the Pakistani Embassy in Amman told Arab News that 15,000 Pakistanis live in Jordan.

She said the embassy has full faith in the investigative committee that Jordan’s government has established, and awaits its results.


Lebanon family restless as it awaits missing ‘heroes’

Updated 11 August 2020

Lebanon family restless as it awaits missing ‘heroes’

  • Najib Hitti, 27, Charbel Hitti, 22 and Charbel Karam, 37, all relatives, left together in one firetruck to douse a port blaze believed to have sparked the August 4 mega-blast
  • The Hittis’ hopes of seeing their loved ones alive have dimmed since the army on Sunday said it had concluded search and rescue operations with little to no hope of finding survivors

QARTABA, Lebanon: Three firefighters. One Lebanese family. The same restless wait. Rita Hitti has not slept a wink since the Beirut port blast, when her firefighting son, nephew and son-in-law went missing.
“In one piece or several, we want our sons back,” she told AFP from the Hitti family’s home in the mountain town of Qartaba, north of Beirut.
“We have been waiting for the remains for six days,” she added, dark circles under her eyes.
Najib Hitti, 27, Charbel Hitti, 22 and Charbel Karam, 37, all relatives, left together in one firetruck to douse a port blaze believed to have sparked the August 4 mega-blast that killed 160 people and wounded at least 6,000 others across town.
They were among the first rescuers at the scene. They have not been heard of since.
Near the entrance to their Qartaba home, the three men are praised as “heroes” in a huge banner unfurled over a wall.
The double exposure shot shows them in the foreground dressed sharply in suits.
In the background, the blast’s now-infamous pink plume rises above their heads as they try to douse a fire.
An eerie calm filled the stone-arched living room, where dozens of relatives and neighbors gathered around Rita, the mother of Najib Hitti.
The women were mum, the men whispered between themselves, the young shuffled in and out of the room, quietly.
Karlen, Rita’s daughter, looked among the most sombre, with her husband Charbel Karam, brother Najib and cousin Charbel all missing.
Sitting next to her mother on the couch, she fought back tears and did not say a single word.
The Hittis’ hopes of seeing their loved ones alive have dimmed since the army on Sunday said it had concluded search and rescue operations with little to no hope of finding survivors.
The health ministry has said the number of missing stands at less than 20, while the army announced it had lifted five corpses from beneath the rubble.
A large blaze was still ripping through the blast site when the Hittis and other relatives of port employees dashed to the disaster zone to check on their loved ones.
But they were stopped by security forces.
“I told them I would know my boys from their smell,” Rita said she told an officer who barred her from the site.
“Let me enter to search for them and when I whiff their smell I will know where they are,” the mother said she pleaded.
Ever since, her hopes have gradually dwindled, but her anger is boiling.
Lebanese authorities have pledged a swift investigation but the exact cause of the blast remains unclear.
Authorities say it was triggered by a fire of unknown origin that broke out in a port warehouse where a huge pile of highly volatile ammonium nitrate fertilizer had been left unsecured for years.
Whatever the cause of the fire was, the popular consensus is that the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of officials in charge of the port as well those who have ruled Lebanon country for decades.
“We gave them heroes and they returned them to us as ‘martyrs’,” Rita said, scoffing at the label officials have used to brand blast casualties.
“What martyrs? What were they protecting? The noxious things (authorities) were hiding in the port?” she asked rhetorically.
“They are martyrs of treachery.”
George, father of Charbel Hitti, also rushed to the blast site to look for his son and relatives after the explosion.
“I started to scream their names: Najib, Charbel... I was like a mad man,” he told AFP.
“We waited until 6 in the morning the next day for clues to what happened,” he said.
“In the end, I started crying.”
He did manage, however, to get one piece of information from a port security official close to the family who was at the scene of the blaze when the firefighting team first arrived on August 4.
The security official had told him that the firefighters were trying to break open the door to the ammonium nitrate warehouse because they could not find the keys before the explosion ripped the whole place apart.
A week has since passed and George said hopes of finding the three men alive have faded.
Assuming they are dead, George said he now wants one thing: “We just want DNA test results that are compatible with those of Charbel, Najib and Charbel,” he said.
“Imagine. This is everything we now wish for.”