The cries of a grieving mother and the smell of death filled the air at Boca, Bulileka, in Labasa yesterday. They shattered the peace and quiet of this small rural community facing its biggest tragedy in living memory. As residents searched for an answer, Karuna Kumar wailed and lamented the loss of her three girls, burned to death when their humble wooden and corrugated home was gutted by fire on Friday night. Her son Rishab, 12, survived and is recovering at Labasa Hospital. “Humar Guddu, Kajal, Kareena, Isha, humar sundar baby,” she would lament before blacking out. “My children, Kajal, Kareena, Isha, oh my beautiful baby.”
Sprawled on a small couch with her head resting on her husband’s lap, the 35-year-old was almost lifeless, constantly slipping in and out of consciousness as she grappled with this traumatic event.
Dead are Kajal, 13, Kareena, 9, and Isha, 6, who were alone at home when the fire started. Mrs Kumar and her husband, Rajesh Kumar, were inconsolable when a Fiji Sun team visited them yesterday at a relative’s place.
“We had never left them alone, this was the first and this happened, I still cannot believe this,” Mr Kumar cried. Mr Kumar who is a self-employed tile layer had asked for his wife’s company while working late at the Macuata House in Labasa on Friday. “We usually took all our children, or at least the youngest with us to wherever I am working.
My wife was running around doing some payments and I asked her to come help me finish the assignment and we’d return home together,” Mr Kumar said. He said that it was a call from a neighbour at 8:26pm informing them that their home was on fire that sent them screaming down a three-floor building in shock.
“I just told that neighbour to call for help as my children were inside.”
“In our desperation we did not even pack, we asked for help and a Government vehicle helped us to get home.” Mr Kumar said he was able to contain himself when he saw the destroyed house, but the news of his daughters’ death was too much to handle and he passed out at the scene.
“It was only our son, Rishab Kumar, 12, that survived the fire. He said that he had woken up to the smell of smoke and heat and attempts to wake up his three sisters were unsuccessful,” he added. “They were all sleeping in my room, and he ran to open the door but the lock burnt his hand so he ran back to the room to wake the sisters up but they would not wake up.”
Mr Kumar said Rishab while running out of the house had suffered burns to his body. Their home is the last one along the Boca Road, located on a hill and the nearest home is about a lominute walk away.
The Fiji Police Force and the National Fire Authority are investigating the case.