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Burned alive

Avinesh Gopal And Torika Tokalau
Monday, February 27, 2012

UMESH Chand was a torn man yesterday.

Saving his mother cost him the life of his young daughter.

Apart from the loss of his young daughter, he also has to go through the pain of his two teenage daughters fighting for their lives in hospital.

Sheeral Shivika Prasad, a Class Two student of Vuci Methodist School in Nausori, died instantly when a fire engulfed her family home on Saturday night.

Her siblings Shayal Shivika Prasad, 16, a Form Four student of Vunimono High School and Sheenal Shivika Prasad, 13, a Class Seven student of Vuci Methodist School were in a critical condition at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva last night.

They were asleep in their corrugated iron and timber house on Koronivia Road, Nausori, when the fire broke out after 11:30pm on Saturday.

Mr Chand, a self-employed welder, said he woke up when family members started screaming. His wife, Sarwan Lata Prasad, and two-year eight-month old daughter, Amrita Anjana Prasad, were rushed out, followed by his 77-year old father.

"I went back inside the flames for my wheelchair-ridden mother and thought my daughters would run out. By the time I took mum out to safety, it was too late to go back inside," Mr Chand said.

"That is heartbreaking, to know there was nothing I could do."

Mr Chand said Shayal suffered 85 per cent burns and Sheenal 95 per cent.

"They were also trapped in the flames but somehow managed to find their way out of the burning house. Sheeral was not lucky, she died inside."

Mr Chand said that night he was not feeling well and went to sleep early.

His son, Alvin Shivneel Prasad, 14, was visiting his maternal aunt when the fire started.

Mr Chand, who suffered minor burns, said his wife suffered from high blood pressure yesterday and had sought medical treatment at the Nausori Hospital while his parents were billeted at his sister's house.

"I was only the caretaker of the house, which was given to me by a prominent person, and I've lost all my belongings and my daughter.

"Whatever happened has really shattered me and I just don't know how to cope with the loss of my daughter and the critical condition my two daughters are in."

Mr Chand said he recently started building another room to extend the two-bedroom house he was looking after.

The National Fire Authority said its Nausori station received a call at 11.37pm and the fire crew arrived at the scene at 11.48pm to find it fully engulfed. It said preliminary investigations revealed that the cause of the fire was a lit candle left unattended in the children's bedroom. NFA acting chief executive officer, Aseri Radrodro said despite numerous warnings people continued to disregard advice given by the NFA, particularly on the need to ensure that they put out all ignition sources before going to bed.

"This was an unfortunate tragedy that has taken away the life of a young innocent child," he said.

"NFA reminds parents that they put candles and mosquito coils in a metal surface on a safe place away from the beddings, curtains and should be put out completely before leaving the house or going to bed."

"Lantern lamp should be used if it is required for lighting at night."

Mr Radrodro said adults and parents should take precautions in using naked lights for lightings at night and use safe and proper lightings.

"It is important for people to take proper safety measures which will avoid fire incidences from occurring in their homes," he said.

Police spokeswoman Ana Naisoro said police were carrying out investigations.

The NFA said this was the second death by fire this year and so far, there have been 13 structural fires compared to nine for the same period last year.

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