Gangtok, Feb. 11: A five-year-old girl in West Sikkim was charred to death in a fire that engulfed a storeroom made of wood and mud when her friend, a three-year-old girl, allegedly lit a match and threw it in a haystack this afternoon.
The tragedy occurred at Kageythang village this afternoon when four children were playing near the victim’s house located at the edge of a forest. The blaze also spread 4km inside the forest and was doused by the fire brigade in two hours.
Hangma Subba’s three other friends could get out of the storeroom, but she got trapped in the fire and died.
Police said her body was beyond recognition and sent to Geyzing district hospital for post-mortem.
Based on the statement of the other three children, the police said a three-year-old girl among them had brought the matchbox.
“The deceased girl was playing with her friends near the house. They slipped into the store room and one of the children who is only three years old lit a matchstick triggering a fire. The other three children managed to get out of the storeroom, but Hangma couldn’t and was burnt to death,” said a police officer.
Police sources said the storeroom, located close to the girl’s house, was used to stock hay and her parents were away in a field when the fire broke out around 1pm. She was the only child of the farmer couple.
When the fire broke out, the children raised the alarm, which caught the attention of the villagers and the parents. By the time they reached the spot, Hangma had been devoured by the flames.
The police said they were trying to find out how the three-year-old child had got hold of the matchbox.
The other two children who were playing inside the storeroom were boys aged six and eight.
The people of Kageythang were in a state of shock after the tragedy.
“The girl was supposed to sit for an admission test tomorrow at a private school near her village,” said a relative of the victim.
Kageythang is 20km from West district headquarters of Geyzing.
The storeroom was in the periphery of the Sakyong forest and the fire spread to the woods in no time. The flames consumed dry bushes spread over 4km and a quick response team and a fire tender from Geyzing fire station were pressed into service after the information was received by the West District administration.
“It took almost two hours to put out the fire which had spread across an area of 4km. The area is dry and the fire spread quickly” said the West district collector L.P. Chettri.
“An ex gratia will be given to the victim’s family since it is a case of unnatural death. I have called the family members to my office tomorrow,” said D.C. Chettri.