A MOTHER and two of her children have been killed in a road accident in Saudi Arabia.
Imrana Bhamji and her son Zakariya, four, and daughter Aysha, six, died in the smash in the holy city of Madina while returning from pilgrimage.
Mrs Bhamji’s husband Muhammed and their three other children Huafiza, eight, Fatima, seven, and Humairah, 10, were also seriously hurt in the crash and were in a critical condition in hospital yesterday.
The family had moved from their Blackburn home to Rhiyad, the capital of the Arab state, just eight weeks ago so 35-year-old Mr Bhamji could pursue a teaching career.
His grieving family paid tribute to her loved ones, describing the loss as a ‘tragedy’.
A senior Blackburn councillor said the deaths had also sent shockwaves through the town’s Muslim community.
The crash happened last Saturday on the outskirts of Madina when the family’s car and a lorry crashed in heavy fog.
They were taken to the King Fahad Hospital in Madina, where Mr Bhamji, a former Witton Park High School pupil who used to live in Notre Dame Gardens, and his three eldest daughters were in a critical condition last night.
It is thought the three children are expected to undergo surgery in coming days.
Mr Bhamji’s sister Shamima and his father Ismael, who lives in Queen’s Park Road, were set to fly to Saudi Arabia last night to be with the family.
Shamima said: “As a family, we are devastated at this time.
“We are sadly facing this tragedy and we are flying out to Saudi Arabia to join the family and my brother.
“They were finishing their pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.
“Muhammed was a teacher in Blackburn and went out to Saudi Arabia to teach for a year and he stayed over there.
“They only went eight weeks ago.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”
Special prayers were said at the Noorul Islam mosque, in Audley Range, where the family were members before they emigrated.
Once Mr Bhamji’s family return from Saudi Arabia, Quranic prayers will also be said. The community is continuing to pay tribute to the family by offering prayers from a book.
Coun Salim Mulla, former Mayor of Blackburn with Darwen who lives near to Mr Bhamji’s father said: “It is very sad and the whole community is shocked.
“It is a real tragedy because they are really good family friends.
“I know Muhammed very very well. He has grown up in front of me and he was in the same class as my son.
“He is a gentleman, very considerate and a very, very friendly chap.
“It is so sad there have been three losses of life. It is a really sad tragedy.”
Coun Mulla added that Mrs Bhamji was originally from the same town in India as him.
He said: “I am sure the family are devastated.”
Mrs Bhamji, Zakariya and Aysha have now been buried in the Cemetery Of Jannat Al-Baqi in Madina, which is where the prophet Muhammed is also buried. Their funeral has already taken place there.
Coun Mustafa Desai, who also represents the Queen’s Park ward and whose mother is Mrs Bhamji’s first cousin, said friends and family were reeling from the loss.
He said: “It is devastating. They are a lovely family.
“I know Mr Bhamji’s dad Ismael quite well because he is one of my constituents. It is so tragic that this has happened.
“They are grief-stricken. It is such a difficult time for the family.”
Damian Talbot, an aide to Blackburn MP Jack Straw, said support was being offered to relatives.
He said: “It is such a tragic case.
“The family has approached us and the office has been providing as much assistance as possible.”
A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office added: “We are aware of an incident in Madina involving British nationals. We can confirm the death of three British nationals in this incident.
“We are providing consular assistance to the family at this difficult time.”