Mother of five among tanker fire victims leaves children orphaned

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MANGALORE, April 10, 2013;

After a brief battle with severe burns, 38-year-old Khatijamma and 30-year-old Vasantha S. succumbed to their injuries Monday evening from the fire that emanated from the overturned LPG bullet tanker at Perne. Khatijamma, mother of four daughters and a son, was at her house in Perne when leaking gas from the toppled tanker set fire to her house Monday morning. Such was the intensity, that eyewitnesses said she had run out of the house engulfed in flames. She suffered 80 per cent burns, and by noon, was admitted to the burns ward of Father Muller Hospital in the city. Around 5.30 p.m., she died.

“Her husband has abandoned her five years ago, and since then has taken care of her five children – aged between 5 and 13 – all by herself by making beedis. I don’t know if the family can come out of the crisis,” said her nephew Mohammad Sharief, who added that the children were at school at the time of the incident.

A few hours later, around 7.30 p.m., Vasantha S. (30), who was undergoing treatment at surgical ICU of AJ Hospital after having suffered 100 per cent burns, died.

Vasantha, who ran a bakery supplies business and a small farm in Bantwal, was going on his scooter on the National Highway when the expanding inferno torched him, said Nagaraj, his brother-in-law.

Vasantha had severe burns across his body. “Even the eyes were not spared. What will happen to my sister? My sister had married him only six months ago, and they were ready to start a new life. There are so many loans for the couple to repay,” he said.

Five injured, who were rushed to three hospitals in the city, seem to be in a state of shock.

Vimala (29), who has 60 per cent burns, and Indira Rai (45), who has 40 per cent burns, are being treated in Father Muller Hospital. Doctors said Indira was out of danger – but will be under observation for a few weeks to prevent spread of infection – and the condition of Vimala was critical. For Vimala, an anganwadi teacher at Karle near Puttur, it was being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

On her return to her house after visiting her sister near Perne, she decided to go to the market to buy items for beedi rolling, said her brother Neelappa, who had been waiting for her return at the relative’s house. “I saw the truck on fire, but it was only later that I got to know that my sister was caught in that,” he said. In Wenlock, 70-year-old Kateeja’s grandchildren watch anxiously at the reclining figure – arms and back bandaged. She was sitting in the veranda of the house – as she usually does – with her daughter-in-law Safia when the expanding inferno lit their roof on fire, said her granddaughter Anisha. Kateeja suffered 30 per cent burns, but doctors said her age has made the situation critical. Safia was treated for burns on her arm at Puttur General Hospital.

He is a Software Engineer from Moodbidri currently living in Kuwait. He likes to travel and post interesting things about technology. He is the designer of Kannadigaworld.com. You may follow him on FB at fb.com/alanpaladka

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