PENANG: A man in his 50s could be behind the pre-dawn fire which killed two girls and destroyed more than 50 houses at the Noordin Street Ghaut foreshore area here on Tuesday.
A State Fire and Rescue Department spokesman, when contacted yesterday, said they came to the conclusion based on an interview with the girls' mother Umi Kalsum Harun, 38, shortly after the fire on that day.
“The woman had told us that a man came over to her rented house at about midnight and demanded that they have sex but she refused as she was afraid that her seven-month foetus could be harmed.
“Umi asked the man, whom she described as a drug addict, to leave but he refused. So, she left him in the house at 2am as she was hungry but before leaving, she locked her two children in the bedroom as she was afraid that he could harm them,” he added.
The spokesman said the woman only returned home about three hours later and by that time her house was already on fire.
“She tried to rescue her daughters but was driven back by the intense heat,'' he added.
Arwani Zulaika, aged two, and Anetasha Marid Diana, three, were burnt to death in the fire. Their charred remains were found huddled in the corner of a bedroom.
State Fire and Rescue Department director Rusmani Muhamad, who declined to comment on Umi's interviews, said it was still too early to tell whether the fire was deliberately started as the chemist department had not sent its report yet.
“At the same time, we are also doing our own analysis on the debris and oil samples collected from the house where the fire started to check for traces of flammable materials such as kerosene,” he added.
George Town OCPD Senior Asst Comm (II) Abdul Wahab Ahmad said police were also investigating along those lines but were doubtful over the story the traumatised woman had related to them.
“There are quite a few inconsistencies in her story. We are waiting for her to be in the right state of mind before interviewing her again,” he added.
“We are also interviewing her husband, who has been released from police custody after being held several days for a drug offence, and the immediate neighbours.''
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