Father who lost seven children in Halifax fire has no idea of tragedy: brother

Members of the Barho family are shown upon arrival in Canada on Sept. 29 2017, at the Halifax airport. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Enfield Weekly Press-Pat Healey

Ali Barho’s routine has been the same every day since he arrived in Halifax three months ago from Lebanon following the horrific news that a house fire had critically injured his brother and claimed the lives of seven of his nieces and nephews.

He goes to the hospital to check on his older brother Ebraheim Barho, who although gradually improving, is heavily sedated and “has no idea” about the extent of the tragedy that struck the family of Syrian refugees on Feb. 19.

Barho, 35, said his constant worry is how his brother, whom he described as “not a strong personality”, will react once he realizes that he has lost all of his children.

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“Even when he used to go somewhere, he used to always take his oldest brother (Mohammed) with him,” he told The Canadian Press through an interpreter.

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“Now when he wakes up and he finds himself without his children, he will be in big shock.”

He said he feels at this point that Ebraheim, who was initially placed in a medically induced coma, does not recognize anyone.

“I try to talk to him and I look at his eyes, but he barely opens his eyes. I talk to him, but I don’t feel he’s communicating.”

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Barho said his brother has undergone several surgeries since being rushed to hospital with extensive burns, and he faces at least two more.

Ebraheim Barho and his wife Kawthar survived the early morning fire that destroyed their new rental home in the Halifax suburb of Spryfield. The couple’s seven children, who ranged in age from three months to mid-teens, perished inside the home.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Ali Barho, who is married to Kawthar’s sister and has four children of his own, said they also do their best to provide support for his grieving sister-in-law.

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“Kawthar is OK,” he said when asked how she was holding up.

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“We wanted to cool down the situation and support her, to try to be by her side until my brother gets better.”

He said Kawthar’s brother and his wife are also in Halifax, and it’s hoped her mother and other sister will be arriving soon.

Barho said his brother Mohammed had also been in Halifax but recently returned to his home in Italy. He and his family plan to stay in Canada, fulfilling a wish Ebraheim has long held.

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“He came initially for his kids for the better education,” he said. “When he arrived, he used to call us on the phone every day saying, ‘It’s very nice here, It’s a beautiful country.’ He just wanted us to come here.”

Ebraheim’s family arrived in Canada in September 2017. They first settled in rural Elmsdale, N.S., about 35 minutes north of Halifax, but they eventually moved to Spryfield to take advantage of immigrant services, including English-language training.

Ali Barho said the tragic fire is especially sad because of the hopes his bother had expressed of making a new life for his family.

He also said he hopes his brother Mohammed will return to join him one day in Canada, along with their three sisters, so the family can be reunited.

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In the meantime, he will continue his daily vigil at Ebraheim’s bedside.

“It is difficult, yes, but there is nothing we can do,” he said. “We have no choice.”

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