Monday, 26 September 2011

Neasden Fire Aftermath: we have schools and children to be proud of

Firefighters pay tribute to the Kua family
 I am Chair of Governors at the Neasden primary school attended by two of the children who died in the house fire at the weekend. I went in this morning to provide as much support as I was able and have returned humbled by the experience. The strength and sensitivity shown by the headteacher and staff as they struggled with their own emotions but put them aside to support the children was truly impressive.

The headteacher ran three assemblies for the different age groups and read out warm and vivid accounts of Amal aged 9 and Mustafa aged 7 provided by their teachers. The children were encouraged to share happy memories of their class mates and were given time to reflect or pray during the assembly. Throughout staff were on hand to give out tissues and provide physical reassurance with strokes and pats on the shoulder for sobbing children. After the assembly the children were given time to talk in class. Time and space was set aside for children to pray later in the morning if they wished. Tributes were paid to the London Fire Brigade, ambulance staff, and the doctors and nurses attending the family's father and surviving older sister.

During the assembly and in class children were very caring and supportive of each other. Some children chose to write, draw pictures or send messages to Amal and Mustafa and others were keen to discuss other, more permanent, ways of remembering the whole family. The older children had attended the school before moving on to Crest Academy.

Bringing to life the concept of 'Brent's Community of Schools' messages of support, sympathy and solidarity came from other Brent schools and from officers in the local authority along with sound practical advice.

In a poignant moment two Year 5 girls knocked at the headteacher's office door while we were meeting after the assemblies. They had noticed how upset the head had been in the assembly and said, "We've come to see if you are okay, Miss."

Out of tragedy is born hope. We have schools and children to be proud of.

Various rumours are circulating locally about the cause of the fire including stories about a faulty fridge. The London Fire Brigade, who observed a minute's silence for the family on Saturday at an event at the Excel Centre, have issued the following statement:
A painstaking investigation into the cause of a fire in Neasden, which killed six people and seriously injured two others, in the early hours of Saturday morning is still ongoing. Fire investigators are leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to establish the cause of the fire.

At this stage, the London Fire Brigade is able to confirm that a BEKO fridge freezer was at the scene of the fire. However, this is not forming part of the fire investigation at this time.

Six fire engines and around 30 firefighters were called to the fire on Sonia Gardens in Neasden, London, NW10, in the early hours of Saturday 24 September. The ground floor and first floor of the two storey semi detached house was badly damaged by the fire.

A woman aged 41 and five children – three girls aged 14, 13 and 9 and two boys aged 5 and 2 died. Two further people, a man aged 51 and a girl aged 16, escaped from the house before firefighters arrived at the scene, both were injured and were taken to hospital by ambulance.

Fire crews were at the scene within minutes of the Brigade being called about the fire - the first fire engine was there within four minutes and the second was there within seven minutes. Metropolitan Police and London Ambulance Service crews were also at the scene.

The Metropolitan Police has deemed the cause of the fire to be non-suspicious but investigations continue to find out how the fire started.
The investigation findings will be updated on the London Fire Brigade website HERE

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