LAHORE  - Six children of a family, including twin brothers, were burnt alive in a house fire at Shadbagh in the wee hours of Sunday.

The deceased are Manahal (12), Zain (11), Dua (8), Aleeba (5), and one and a half years old twins - Azan and Azhan.

An Edhi Foundation staffer said the fire broke out in the first portion of a three-storey house on Sher Shah Road and in no time it engulfed the second floor. The ill-fated children were sleeping when the tragedy took place, said the charity worker.

Their mother was busy with her worship on the ground floor while their father was out at a shrine to perform rituals in connection with Shab-e-Meraj, according to the locals.

“It was terrible. The mother shouted for help. We rushed and desperately tried to put out the fire… but it was so furious,” a neighbour recalled the shocking story.

Firefighters and rescuers came under fire for ‘unprecedented’ delay in response to such an emergency.

“All the six children had been burnt to death when the rescuers and firefighters showed up at the spot,” Mustafa Ahmed, a resident told reporters outside the building.

According to official sources, rescuers registered 20-minute response time in their record – the department usually claims of an average response time of 7 minutes to such emergencies. The residents of area, however, said the firefighters reached the spot at least one hour after the fire erupted in the three-marla building.

“When the first fire brigade vehicle reached there, the rescue workers had no stairs to launch operation on the upper portion of the building. It took them 15 minutes to open the water pipe,” says Muhammad Aslam, also a resident of the area. Rescue-1122 DG Rizwan Naseer did not respond to repeated calls by this subscribe while spokesman Sajjad Hussain’s phone was on not-responding-mode.

The reason for fire was unclear. However, locals believe the fire could have been caused by short-circuit.

The bodies were handed over to the family Sunday afternoon and the victims were buried at a local graveyard. No politician – neither from the government nor from any opposition party – showed up to console the devastated couple.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered an inquiry and sought report from the provincial government. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif also ordered an inquiry into the matter. Residents also made complaints of out-of-order fire brigade equipments.

On the order of CM Shahbaz, the area offices of Rescue-1122 and fire brigade service are sealed and the official record has been seized.

The Shalamar Town assistant commissioner has been nominated as inquiry officer. He has been directed by the Chief Minister to hold an in-depth inquiry into the happening and submit his report to the CM Secretariat within three days.