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Burned alive

Repeka Nasiko
Tuesday, January 15, 2013

AN early morning blaze on Nadi's main street yesterday claimed the life of a 38-year-old Nawaka man.

Mahesh Kumar, a carpenter, was working on renovations in the clothing shop His and Hers when the fire broke out.

According to the neighbouring shopowner, Abdul Hannan, Mr Kumar's construction company had been contracted to renovate the shop.

"They had been working for the past four or five days during the day and night," said Mr Hannan.

The fire also injured shop owner Rajend Singh, who is admitted at Lautoka Hospital with 75 per cent burns.

According to Mr Hannan, the businessman was in the country to oversee the renovation.

"He lives in Australia and he comes in once a month to check on the store," said Mr Hannan whose adjacent clothing shop was also affected by the blaze.

"My shop was also partly damaged but fortunately it was saved," Mr Hannan said.

The National Fire Authority said fire officers were alerted at 12.45am by the police who informed them that a person was trapped in the shop while another had been rushed to Lautoka Hospital.

"When the crew arrived, both the shops were on fire and engulfed in flames and smoke," an NFA statement said.

"Due to the magnitude of the fire, the firefighters fought hard to extinguish the fire within the two shops to prevent it from spreading to the row of shops on the main street of Nadi Town.

"There was no possibility of safely rescuing the trapped person."

NFA has launched an investigation with the police to determine what the two men were doing on site in the early hours of the morning and why they were not able to safely evacuate the building.

NFA chief executive officer John O'Connor said the authority was concerned about the increase in structural fires with only a few days into the new year.

"NFA has attended to two major commercial fires for the month of January following the Shop and Save Supermarket fire incident in Tavua Town last week and the His and Hers clothing outlet, which claimed the life of another human being," Mr O'Connor said in a statement. "This fire case is the fifth structural fire incident in 2013 following three house fire incidents since the beginning of 2013 and the commercial fire at Shop and Save Supermarket," he said.

Mr O'Connor urged business owners to take extra care when conducting maintenance works on their premises to ensure fire safety procedures are followed at all times to prevent fire related deaths and injuries at the workplace.

"Business owners must also ensure they comply with NFA's fire safety requirements to avoid the risk of fires occurring in their properties.

"We hope members of the community take heed of our advice to avoid unnecessary fire incidents from damaging or destroying their properties."

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