TORONTO: A fundraising effort for a Syrian-refugee couple who lost all seven of their children in a house fire in the eastern Canadian city of Halifax has reached C$290,000 (US$220,110) from nearly 6,000 people in 24 hours, according to online fundraiser GoFundMe.
With the children's father in the hospital with life-threatening injuries and the mother stricken with grief, the community will hold a vigil for the family Wednesday evening (Feb 20) in Halifax, according to one of the groups that helped resettle the refugees.
The youngest victim, Abdullah, was four months old and the oldest, Ahmed, was 15 years old. The others were Rana, 3, Hala, 4, Ghala, 8, Mohammed 10, and Rola, 12.
Family friends of the victims, the Imam Council of Halifax, and the Hants East Assisting Refugees Team (HEART) Society initiated the GoFundMe crowd-funding drive for the Barho family, according to the website. The vigil was scheduled for 6pm Atlantic time.
The Barho family arrived in Canada in 2017 and were the first family sponsored by the HEART Society, according to the organisation. A YouTube video posted on The Enfield Weekly Press & The Laker channel shows the family receiving a welcome at an airport in Sep 29, 2017.
The society said the children enjoyed living in Canada, and participated in swimming and bicycling.
The family fled from the city of Raqqa, "one of the worst affected areas in Syria", said Abdallah Yousri, an imam at Ummah Masjid and Community Center, a mosque the family attended.
"They fled from there to be burned over here. It is unbelievable," the New York Times quoted Mr Yousri as saying.
Natalie Horne, vice president of the HEART Society, told Reuters on Wednesday, the family was "full of humour, full of smiles, full of gratitude, and love."
The father is in hospital with life-threatening injuries, and the mother was not injured but is dealing with "an overwhelming amount of grief", according to Horne.
Mr Barho tried to save his children, according to Wael Haridy, an imam at the Nova Scotia Islamic Center, reported the New York Times.
“He ran back into the house when it was on fire, and that is why he had major burns all around his body," said Mr Haridy.
Mrs Barho was in "extreme shock", he added.
“She kept saying: ‘I don’t have any of my kids? Not even one or two? All seven are dead?’” Mr Haridy said.
The cause of the fire is yet to be determined by the authorities.
"It's been an overwhelming show of support from the community locally, nationally, internationally. It means a lot. We wish that we could all bring the children back," Horne said.
A neighbour, Danielle Burt, told CBC that she heard an explosion in the middle of the night before seeing the flames ravaging the home.
"I heard a huge bang, and I was laying in bed with my daughter, 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," she said.
Firefighters responded at 12.40 am.
In a Twitter message, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his "heart goes out to the survivors of this horrible fire ... and loved ones who are mourning this tremendous loss.
"Words fail when children are taken from us too soon, especially in circumstances like this."