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Baby girl charred to death in house at Chitlapakkam

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The bedroom of the house at Chitlapakkam where a fire broke out.
The bedroom of the house at Chitlapakkam where a fire broke out.

K. Manikandan

Mother, brother escape with burns; air-conditioner blamed

TAMBARAM: An 18-month-old girl was charred to death while her elder brother and their mother escaped with burn injuries in a fire involving an air-conditioning unit in their house at Chitlapakkam near Tambaram on Wednesday.

At 6 a.m. on Wednesday, the neighbours heard cries for help and noticed smoke coming out of the ventilator of the bathroom attached to the bedroom. They used a crowbar to break into the house and the bedroom that was bolted from inside.

Monisha was dead by then. An unconscious Srivalli, the mother, and Nagarjuna, with burn injuries, were rushed to a nearby hospital.

Ms. Srivalli, an employee of the Income Tax Department, lived with her children in a house on Dhenupureeswarar Street in MMDA Nagar. Her husband Shanmuganathan, who works for a Chennai-based firm, is posted in Singapore.

Neighbours said that at 6 a.m., they were woken up by the fervent pleas for help and they could immediately recognise the voices of Srivalli and her son Nagarjuna.

“It is so tragic. We just cannot believe it,” said Hemalatha, living next door and who has seen Monisha since the day she was born. “We all celebrated her first birthday only about six months ago,” she said.

As Srivalli was unwell and on sick leave, Ms. Hemalatha and other neighbours stepped in to take care of Monisha for the past couple of days. “I gave her a meal of ragi only on Tuesday evening and I was shellshocked to see her charred body. With her elder brother in school and her parents away for work, we used to take care of the child,” she said.

Nagarjuna, was set to get back to school on Thursday.

Neighbours and eyewitnesses told reporters that the indoor unit of the split air-conditioner could have caused the fire. The outdoor unit was intact. Most of the wiring and electrical equipment inside the bedroom was undamaged. The mattresses were burnt and the floor and ceiling covered with soot.

Neighbours and relatives appealed to engineers of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board to conduct an inquiry. Voltage fluctuations, the order of the day in the neighbourhood, could have set off a short circuit, some said. Situated in the tail-end of Chitlapakkam, the locality is plagued by erratic power supply, residents said. The police said that only thorough investigations could the exact cause of the fire be established. The Chitlapakkam police registered a case.

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