HELP! Roasted by kerosene fire, abandoned in hospital

  • Sunday, September 07, 2008 - By GODDY OSUJI, Abakaliki
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• Chinyelu can’t pay medical bill ...And she is a widow

Chinyelu Nwokwu is only 21, but she has had her share of the vicissitudes of life.
When she had a child nine months ago, it was merriment galore. But seven months later, it was bad news: Her husband dropped dead!
Perhaps she would have borne it, consoling herself with her baby.

Rather her problems seemed to have multiplied, as a wicked kerosene fire not only killed her cherished baby, it ravaged her so badly that today, she is only a shadow of her former self, confined to a hospital bed in Ebonyi State.
Chinyelu, a petty trader at Onueke also lost her brother, Ajuluchukwu, in the fire incident, which happened shortly after the death of her husband in June. More than this, two of her other brothers are still on admission as a result of the severe burns they received in the incident. Compounding the family’s trauma is that one of her younger sisters, Nnenna, a JSS 2 student of St. Ben Secondary School, Onueke whose milder burns were treated and subsequently discharged is however being detained by the hospital for non-payment of the huge medical bills for treatment.

As it is, Chinyelu’s parents who are peasant farmers have exhausted their meager means to pay the bills for her siblings who suffered mild burns. They are in deep agony and bemoaning the terrible fate that befell them. Consequently, they are earnestly praying and hoping that the hospital would let them go.
But more pertinently, they are appealing to public-spirited individuals to come to their aid and settle the accumulated medical bills.

When Sunday Sun visited the two sisters at the hospital both looked dejected.
Summoning some strength, Chinyelu recounted how the unfortunate incident happened. She told Sunday Sun that on the fateful evening around 9.30 pm when the family was having dinner, kerosene in the only source of light, a lantern, finished. One of her siblings tried to refill it. In the attempt to do this, the previously vaporized kerosine oozing from the lantern ignited and suddenly exploded.
“The entire room was engulfed by fire, confusion and stampede ensued and there was fire everywhere. By then I was carrying my little baby and feeding her. Nobody could locate the door for escape and to compound the bad situation the door seemed locked,” Chinyelu recalled.

She continued: “In the stampede that ensued I can’t explain how the baby got burnt and I sustained serious burns; my other three siblings also had severe burns. One of my brothers Ajuluchukwu who was rushed to the hospital with us later gave up. I can’t even explain how the door was later opened and we were rescued by neighbours and taken to the hospital. We were about nine in the room including my mother. Others sustained minor burns but not as serious as ours. The baby died and my brother also leaving two of us in the hospital.

I was at my parents’ house when the incident happened. I went there when my husband died. After his burial my parents who live in Onueke Ezza South Local Government Area of Ebonyi state asked me to come and spend some days with them as custom demands. The incident happened the very day I arrived.”

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