IN HORROR AS OLDER SISTER BURNS
Who will wash our uniforms now? Who will help us with our homework? Who will make afternoon tea for us? These were some of the questions that Taito Rokoca, 14, asked when he recounted how he watched his older sister, Paulini Kaloumaira, burn while trying to cook cassava for dinner. The incident took place on Thursday at Sote Village, Tailevu. Taito and younger sister Ana Radinibau, 9, said Paulini, 19, was more like a mother to them. “We can’t even recognise her face. She always cooks for us in the morning, make us lunch and cooks dinner. We really miss her,” said Taito. Paulini was a Year 11 student of Tailevu North College. Taito, Ana and Paulini have two older siblings, both living in Nadi - the eldest is married while the other is studying. The siblings had lost their mother in 2013 and since then Paulini was always there for Taito and Ana.
The children’s grandfather, Levani Bau, 75, said: “I couldn’t recognise her face and all her body was burnt. “She’s a very hardworking girl and she’s like their mother in this house. “She does everything in this house and her two young siblings always depend on her for everything. “My two grandchildren were hanging onto me while seeing their sister burn. It’s really painful because these two kids will be very helpless without her,” said Mr Bau. Taito said Paulini had asked them to peel some cassava. She then set the pot of cassava on a kerosene stove to cook. While cooking, she said the flames were weak so she decided to use firewood. “She wanted to use kerosene to light the fire but she couldn’t find the kerosene gallon, so she picked up the benzene (premix) gallon to use. Just when she opened the gallon, the benzene fume diffused in the kitchen and that’s when the fire started from the kerosene stove. The gallon that she was holding exploded and she couldn’t do anything,” Taito said. “When I shouted at her she just looked and waved. I ran outside and call my grandfather and the villagers came to put out the fire. She was completely burnt.”
One of Paulini’s school mate, Vasemaca Verebasaga, also witnessed the incident. “When I heard the kids shouting, I rushed to see what had happened, all I saw was black flame in the kitchen and when I looked to the corner of the kitchen, I saw Paulini I laid her down and covered her,” she said. On their way to Nausori Hospital Vasemaca said: “She was asking me if Ana and Taito were ok and she was telling me to tell the driver to speed up since she was in deep pain. And she also told me not to leave her side.” Paulini was rushed to the Nausori Hospital on Thursday afternoon and was later transferred to the Colonial War Memorial Hospital that evening. She died yesterday at CWM Hospital. Vasemaca said Paulini had always told them in school that she wanted to become a teacher.
From left: The late Paulini Kaloumaira’s brother Taito Rokoca, grandfather, Levani Bau and sister Ana Radinibau at their home in Sote Village, Tailevu yesterday.
The late Paulini Kaloumaira.