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Russian agencies probing hostel fire

Pooja Kallur's father (left) at Mumbai Airport; Karishma Bhosle’s body reaches her Pune home (below)— Photos: Vijay Bate and Jignesh Mistry  

Five Russian agencies are probing the fire at the hostel of Smolensk State Medical University in Russia in which two fourth-year Indian students, Pooja Kallur from Navi Mumbai and Karishma Bhosle from Pune, suffocated to death.

Dr Alok Aeron, a Russia resident for the past 20 years, and Director of Cosmos Educational Consultants which handles admissions of Indian students to the university, told The Hindu from Russia that the allegations of faulty safety systems inside the hostel are false, and that authorities tried their best to save all the students.

“The fire had broken out in the room next to the room of the deceased girls. The alarm system was in place; fire sensors, extinguishers and hose pipe were all working properly. There were announcements on the loudspeaker on every floor. However, the girls could not come out quickly as the flames stopped their way.”

Dr Aeron added that the hostel is situated inside the university and is approved by the management. “It is not a private property,” he claimed. Dr Aeron said the occupant of the room where the fire started told the police that the charger of her laptop caught fire. “She was alone in her room then. Her laptop was on, and she had gone to the toilet. The laptop was kept on her bed, which caught fire.”

However, he said that five Russian authorities are probing the incident, after which the exact cause of the fire will be revealed.

He expressed his personal concern: “I rushed to the spot after hearing the news. We could not call the families immediately as we did not have the confirmed news about the death of the girls,” he said. “I know the pain of both families. I ensured that their bodies reach India. While I know that the loss is irreparable, I am ready to extend all possible help to the families.” He added that Russian government and Indian Embassy in Russia were quick to help.

Earlier, the body of Karishma Bhosle reached Pune and her last rites were performed. Pooja Kallur’s body was flown from Russia to Mumbai on Wednesday afternoon, and brought to her home in Navi Mumbai by 5.30 pm.

“It was immediately taken to cremation.” Girish Kaurane, a family friend of the Kallurs, said. “The family was inconsolable. While all political leaders were present for the cremation, the family has requested a thorough inquiry in the incident.”

Mr Kaurane told The Hindu that many ex-students of the same university and their families are trying to get in touch with the Kallurs. “They have similar complaints. We are planning to meet soon to discuss the issue. It is important to find out the truth, so that students who will opt to study in Russia remain safe.”


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Printable version | Jul 23, 2021 1:20:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/news/russian-agencies-probing-hostel-fire/article8251226.ece

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