distraught: Pamela Small and Carol-Ann Paul, relatives of San Fernando pensioner Anita Eli, who died in a fire which destroyed her house, weep at the scene yesterday at Newbold Street, Navet Village. —Photo: DAVE PERSAD

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Ailing woman dies in fire

By Susan Mohammed susan.mohammed@trinidadexpress.com

CONFINED to bed due to a medical condition, pensioner Anita Eli was unable to escape the flames which engulfed the bedroom of her home in San Fernando yesterday. Eli, 78, died on the floor next to her bed, while her family fought to fight the blaze.

Eli, of Newbold Street, Navet Village, was a mother of six and a grandmother of eight. 

Her grand-daughter, Natessa Alexander, a police officer attached to Marabella Police Station, said she awoke around 8 a.m. to see her father throwing water on the flames. 

“I heard my father bawling and I ran out of my bedroom. He was throwing water in my grandmother’s room. It was on fire. The ceiling started to fall, there was black smoke all over. I started to bawl for the neighbours,” said Alexander. 

Matthew Pierre, a neighbour, said he ran across to help.

 “I took my blanket and dipped it in a barrel of water and ran to the house with some other people. We began wetting the house with everything we could find—hose, bucket, basin and bathtub. I went by a window where I saw the fire and took the hose to extinguish there. Then I realised I was wetting the lady because she was on fire. I started to shake and tremble,” Pierre told the Express. 

Neighbour Raymond John said he ran into the house and saw Alexander break a pipe to get water.

 “Just the bedroom was on fire but it was too much smoke. If we had better water pressure we might have been able to save the lady,” John said. 

Fire officers from Mon Repos Fire Station responded and doused the remaining flames. 

Senior Superintendent Cecil Santana, Superintendent Anthony James and ASP Zamsheed Mohammed led a group of officers to the scene.

 Police suspect that an electrical fault may have started the fire, since the flames were concentrated around the ceiling. An autopsy is expected to be performed today at the Forensic Science Centre. 

Alexander said her grandmother, who was ailing from diabetes and hypertension, suffered a stroke about ten years ago and another about three weeks ago. 

“I called out to her last night and asked her ‘Granny, how you going?’ She said I good. She looked happy,” said Alexander. 

She said Eli previously worked as a sales clerk at Callendar’s Cake and Decorating Supplies in San Fernando. 

The fire at Eli’s house follows another fire which destroyed the house of a disabled man in San Fernando on Saturday night. Steve Brown, who is paralysed from the waist down, threw himself off the front porch and rolled down eight steps of his Mon Repos home.

 San Fernando Mayor Kazim Hosein, who was at the scene of yesterday’s fire  said: “There are too many murders and fires destroying lives in the city. I would like to have a day of prayer on Friday, for us to pray for the nation and let us once again have a God-fearing society.” 

Corporal Hugh Elbourne of the Mon Repos CID is investigating.

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