Her husband suffers serious burns; cause of fire unknown

A 62-year-old woman was charred to death and her husband suffered serious burns when the ambulance in which they were transporting their three-year-old granddaughter to hospital caught fire at Kallara, in the Venjaramoodu police circle limits, on Sunday morning.

The police identified the deceased as Suhara Beevi of Karichara. Her husband, Abdul Waheed, 72, sustained over 90 per cent burns. His condition is serious.

K.R. Biju, Circle Inspector, Venjaramoodu, said the couple had called the “108” ambulance service to take Aashena, who had inadvertently consumed kerosene, to hospital. Suhara and Mr. Waheed were sitting alongside the driver in the ambulance. The police said the emergency medical technician noticed smoke emanating from behind the driver's cabin and stopped the vehicle when it reached Kallara from nearby Karichara.

He immediately evacuated Aashena and her mother who were travelling in the rear compartment of the vehicle. The fire quickly engulfed the vehicle before the ambulance crew could rescue the couple sitting in the driver's cabin, the police said.

The police and the Fire and Rescue Services doused the fire that consumed the vehicle. Aashena and her relatives were rushed to the Government Medical College Hospital in another ambulance. Aashena has been admitted to SAT Hospital and her condition is reported to be stable.

The police said they were yet to identify the cause of the fire.

There were no signs of any blast or arson in the ambulance. Its fuel tank, air-conditioning system, the gas cylinder containing the pressurised refrigerant, and the medical oxygen supply cylinder were found intact.

Mr. Biju said the vehicle's battery, its uninterrupted power supply system, and oxygen cylinder were kept close together in a cramped space behind the driver's cabin. Experts from the Forensic Sciences Laboratory would inspect the vehicle on Monday.

Case filed

The police have registered a case of unnatural death caused by a fire incident. Meanwhile, the operators of the “108” ambulance service said they were cooperating with the authorities to find out the cause of the fire. V. Radheesh, one of the operating chiefs of the service, said the ambulances met the safety standards laid down by the National Rural Health Mission, which sponsored the service.