TRAGEDY struck a settlement near Korovuto in Nadi after a house fire resulted in the death of a one-year-old baby and the hospitalisation of another two children in Nadi on Friday.
Residents of Baro settlement who witnessed the blaze said they saw the 21-year-old mother lock the home and walk towards a nearby store but were not aware she had locked her children inside the corrugated iron home until when the fire started.
As smoke billowed from under the roof, neighbours heard crying and loud screams from inside the building. It was then they realised the mother had left the children inside the locked house.
"We saw a boy run towards the building and tried to open the door but couldn't. By this time, flames were all over the sitting room and coming out of the roof of the house. The boy managed to smash a window and rescue the two bigger children but he could not save the baby," witnesses said.
Distraught home owner Mohammed Iqbal could barely speak when interviewed at the scene of the tragedy yesterday.
"I don't know what to say. I have lost my daughter and my family has lost our home. I am very sad. I have to bury my daughter and look for somewhere to stay for my family," he said, after being consoled by neighbours.
Mr Khan, a cane cutter, was working on a farm when the incident happened.
It is believed the fire could have been started by a stove inside the home.
National Fire Authority officers rushed to the scene but the home was completely destroyed by the time fire trucks got there. The NFA said while it sympathised with the family on the loss of their child, they were also concerned at the mother in leaving the children unsupervised and locked inside the residence.
Police spokeswoman Ana Naisoro pleaded with members of the public to make better decisions before carrying out duties or tasks.
The blaze brings the total number of structural fires to 59 compared to 25 for the same period last year.