DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A house fire in an eastern region of the United Arab Emirates killed seven children while they slept, police said Monday, as one of the nation’s top rulers ordered civil defense officials to install fire alarms in all citizens’ homes.
The early morning fire in Fujairah, one of the UAE’s seven emirates, shocked the oil-rich nation on the Arabian Peninsula. While known for the glittering high-rises of Dubai and the vast oil wealth of Abu Dhabi, the UAE also has poorer, less-developed emirates as well.
Monday’s fire struck in Dhadna, about 115 kilometers (70 miles) northeast of Dubai along the country’s coastline on the Gulf of Oman.
Police in Fujairah said the blaze killed four girls and three boys, their ages between 5 and 13. It said all suffocated in the smoke while their mother was unable to save them. An investigation into the fire is underway, though police urged all Emiratis to have fire and smoke alarms in their homes.
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In accordance with Muslim tradition, the family quickly buried the children on Monday afternoon, a ceremony that reportedly drew mourners from neighboring Oman as well.
Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who also serves as the UAE’s vice president and prime minister, wrote on Twitter that he had ordered civil defense units to install fire alarms in the homes of all Emirati citizens, with the poor receiving them at the government’s expense.
“Security and safety is a priority for us and all those who work in government,” Sheikh Mohammed said on Twitter.