Three girls in gas explosion still critical after burns surgery

Cause of explosion in basement of Mirdif villa remains a mystery.

DUBAI // The families of three of the teenage girls seriously injured in a suspected gas explosion waited anxiously yesterday as they underwent surgery. Three of the four girls required operations to clean their wounds and remove dead tissue after the blast last weekend. Their condition last night was described as critical but stable.

The explosion happened last Friday in the basement of a three-storey house in Mirdif rented by the Housee family. Fatima Housee, 16, Kim Oberholzer and Daniela Seddon, both 14, and another girl, who has not yet been named, were all badly burnt. At 10.30 yesterday morning surgeons began a three-hour operation on Kim, a South African, who is the most severely injured of the girls. The surgery treated the burns that cover 55 per cent of her body, according to Dr Nael Abousidou, a specialist plastic surgeon at Rashid Hospital's burns unit.

"She has burns to her face, neck, arms, legs and some of the abdomen and back," he said. "They are second-degree, deep burns. She was the most affected of the four girls." The girls remain in induced comas at Rashid Hospital's surgical intensive care unit, where they are being treated for first and second degree burns. "Their conditions are still critical, they are still being incubated and will return to the ICU," Dr Abousidou said, adding that a team of medical staff were assessing each case on an hourly basis. "Until now they are in a stationary condition, they are not deteriorating and we are monitoring them." Madiha Housee, Fatima's older sister, said her parents and the rest of the family remain worried about her condition. Since the accident, two of her brothers who now live in Saudi Arabia and the UK have returned to Dubai to be with the family. "Fatima is the youngest and our parents are of course very worried and always at the hospital," said Ms Housee, 29. "I saw her today, she seems stable, but is still unconscious." Just how long the girls will continue to be kept under sedation, incubated and ventilated, will depend on their progress and lung function, which was affected by smoke inhalation. Dino Oberholzer, Kim's father, said his daughter is expected to undergo another operation, which is likely to take place in the next week. Since Friday, Mr Oberholzer and his wife have remained at the hospital whenever possible. "It is not easy for us," he said. "It's hard to even sleep at night, it's really not easy." On Monday, the police closed the case, concluding that the suspected gas explosion was an accident and confirming that there would be no criminal charges. Dubai Civil Defence said earlier that the explosion happened when gas was ignited by an electrical discharge when one of the girls turned on a basement light. However, a police report suggested the explosion could have been caused by a spark from a match used by one of the girls to light an oven. According to Ms Housee, the family have so far not been informed of the cause of the blast or the results of the investigation. The Housee family, originally from Mauritius, have lived in the UAE for 10 years, and in the villa in Mirdif for the past five. After the accident on Friday, Ms Housee, her husband, parents, brother and sister-in-law left the villa, and have been staying with friends and family.