LAHORE - A four-year-old boy, two youngsters, and a seventy-year-old handicapped woman were among six people killed in a house fire in the walled city early yesterday.

Another four people, including a six-month baby, were rescued by locals during the search and rescue operation.

Eighty-year-old Muhammad Shahid, his 65-year-old wife Kaisra Bibi, 18-year-old daughter Ayesha Bibi, 14-year-old son Ali Shahid, and two relatives including four-year-old Muhammad Ali, and 70-year-old Gulshan Zara were identified as victims of yesterday’s blaze in Lohari Gate. Police said Gulshan Zara, a disabled woman, was living with his brother’s family.

All the family members were asleep when huge fire broke out in the second floor of the four-storey building at 02:35 am on Thursday.

“It’s a tragedy beyond description,” said Mudassar, who lives in a house nearby. He said a college girl and her young brother were among those who had died, as well as a disabled woman. “It’s really so sad. A couple of hours ago the whole family was leading their normal life. The blaze killed the family and destroyed the building within minutes”.

The Edhi Foundation, a charity that runs ambulances to help victims of accidents and tragedies, confirmed that six persons including a four-year-old boy were burnt alive in the house fire.

It was unclear yet what caused the blaze. However, an investigation was commenced, involving police and firefighters, to determine the cause of the fire.

Neighbours believe the blaze broke out because of short-circuiting. Earlier, reports said the fire erupted in one of the bedrooms shortly after a bed-sheet fell on the burning heater inside.

The blaze, which broke out in an old building near Lohari Chowk in the densely populated locality, triggered panic among the residents. “A major portion of the building was made of wood, therefore, the fire spread to the entire structure within minutes,” Adnan Ahmad, an eyewitness said.

According to him, the fire erupted in the bedroom that was locked from inside. “It was just a matter of minutes the whole family was destroyed. The whole family has gone,” Ahmad said.

The narrow streets in the congested locality hindered the rescue operation as fire brigade trucks failed to reach the site.

A resident, Muhammad Imran, told reporters that the poor response from rescuer workers caused more damage. “The firefighters were alerted immediately but they reached the spot after a considerable delay,” Imran said.

Dozens of people gathered on the spot soon after the incident as fire flames were visible from a considerable distance. Moving scenes were witnessed at the site as rescuers pulled out overcooked bodies from shabby building.

Markets in the area were also closed down to mourn the tragedy.

Neighbours said a large extended family lived in the house, which like many in the street had attic rooms. One of them said: “All the family members were sleeping in the house when it caught fire. The neighbours called the fire brigade after they witnessed huge smoke emitting from the corridors of the building.”

Another resident said: “The children’s father was a vegetable vendor. They were very hard working and kind people and they were such a peaceful and loving family. They never interfered with anyone else and they were very nice and loving.”

The police sealed the building late yesterday after the district administration marked the structure as dangerous building.