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Blaze in Tyre refugee settlement kills 18-month-old boy
A girl stands near the burnt out tents in Ras al-Ain. Some at the scene suggested the fire may have been caused by a heater. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
A girl stands near the burnt out tents in Ras al-Ain. Some at the scene suggested the fire may have been caused by a heater. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
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TYRE, Lebanon: A Syrian child was killed and three other people injured Sunday in a fire at a refugee settlement in the south Lebanon district of Tyre. The fire broke out at a refugee gathering in the village of Ras al-Ain, where many displaced Syrians live.

The child victim was named Hammoud Arman. He was 18 months old.

Civil Defense members and firefighters were able to put out the blaze and those injured were transferred to a local hospital. Many had inhaled smoke and were in need of treatment.

The Army cordoned off the settlement and launched an official investigation to determine the cause of the fire. Some at the scene suggested it may have been caused by a heater.

The Syrian refugees living in the gathering despondently told The Daily Star that though they tried, they could not save the boy.

“A child ran toward us and told us that several tents had caught fire,” said Sami al-Masri, who is responsible for managing the makeshift camp that was constructed for Syrian agricultural workers in the region.

“We tried to put off the fire but we couldn’t,” Masri said. “We entered the tent where the Arman family resides, which is made of wood and nylon, and managed to save several family members, but not Hammoud, who burned to death immediately.”

Several refugees rushed to help the Arman family when the fire broke out.

Civil defense units arrived later to extinguish the fire, preventing it from spreading to other tents.

Hammoud’s sister, 5-year-old Najwa, looked at their family’s scorched tent and said with tears in her eyes: “My little brother is dead and [his body] is now in hospital.”

Hammoud’s parents were seen sobbing and howling with grief in the hospital lobby. Umm Mohammad, who was comforting the family, said: “Those who didn’t die from the cold died from the fires.”

Representatives from several international organizations and charities rushed to the area once they heard news of the fire.

“We came here with the UNHCR team,” said Ali al-Akhdar, working for the non-governmental organization Sheild. “Three families [that were affected by the blaze] will be taken at once to a new shelter.”

Four Syrian infants were reportedly killed by harsh weather conditions in Arsal and Akroum last week, after the first winter storm of the year arrived in Lebanon. The storm, named Alexa, left snow in places just 500 meters above sea level for the first time in years, prompting aid organizations to step up relief efforts in affected areas.

Three-month-old Mahmoud Raad died partly as a result of the cold weather in the village of Akroum after temperatures in the village plunged to minus 6 degrees Celsius.

“We fled death in Syria to face death by either cold or fire. God has driven us away from our country,” said Nadia Asmar, a Syrian refugee from Ras al-Ain and a mother of four.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 16, 2013, on page 4.
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