Two fathers who lost 10 relatives in a deadly New York City house fire grappled with their grief, finding strength in verses from Quran as they prepared for the funerals Monday of their loved ones.
The devastating blaze claimed five children from the Magassa family, which shared the now-decimated three-story home with cab driver Mamadou Soumare, his wife and four children.
The survivors' grief was compounded two days later with word that Soumare's only surviving child, 7-year-old Hassimi, had also died of complications from smoke inhalation. Soumare had been working when the fire broke out late Wednesday night. His wife and other children perished in the blaze.
Supporters say both men, who are Muslims, have found strength in their religion.
At a prayer service Sunday at the Islamic Cultural Center in the Bronx, where the funerals were planned Monday afternoon, Soumare read a pair of well-known verses from the Muslim holy book, the Quran. In English, the verses mean:
"Be sure we shall test you, with something of fear, and hunger, some loss, in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere who say, when afflicted with calamity: 'To God we belong and to Him is our return."'
Investigators believe the fire started with a space heater and quickly spread through the home. It was New York City's deadliest since the 1990, when a fire in the Bronx killed 87 people at a social club.
Gov. Eliot Spitzer met with relatives of the victims Sunday and described them as inconsolable.
"When you look into the eyes of the father, aunts, children who have survived who are related and see the tears flowing, it's impossible not to share their sense of grief," Spitzer said.
The Magassa children are to be buried following the services in a Muslim cemetery in New Jersey, friends of the family have said. Members of the Soumare family who died in the fire are to be flown to their parents' native Mali for burial.
The home's 22 residents, 17 of whom were children, all hailed from Mali or traced their roots to the impoverished west African country. Moussa Magassa had been on a business trip there when the fire began.
The surviving fire victims were improving, hospital officials said, reports AP.
The government of Mali also has offered support to the families. On Sunday, Mali's foreign minister, Moctar Ouane, thanked New Yorkers on behalf of Mali's president, Amadou Toumani Toure. "The people of Mali are deeply touched by the gestures of solidarity and compassion," he said.