What started as a mundane Sunday morning could so quickly change into a scene from hell. And change our lives forever.
We all went to bed on Saturday night like any other night. I was sleeping with Ibrahim upstairs while my wife was with my 12-day old newborn baby, Zainab, in the room downstairs. Post c-section, she has restrictions on climbing stairs for a few weeks. My other brothers with their families were in their respective rooms.
At around 6.20 am, I was jolted out of my sleep with a loud explosion. Not like anything I’d heard in real life ever. The sound was deafening like the one you see in a war movie. Like something blew up into bits.
And within seconds, there were screams. I didn’t know if it was one person or many people screaming. I quickly jumped out of bed and looked out the window thinking…..actually thinking nothing! Still dazed I really did not know what to think. Just then people from across the street started shouting and pointing towards our house in the general direction of my kitchen.
That’s when I realized the explosion was in my house and the screams where from someone from my house!
My first thought was my wife and daughter. I ran downstairs towards their room and saw my wife running towards the main door with a blanket in her hand. She was OK and so was Zainab. I ran after her and saw a sight like never before. Standing on the main door was my maid, burning in flames from head to toe. She was on fire. We put a blanket around her and defused the flames. The less I describe about how she looked, the better. My mom and wife were both holding her and made her sit on a chair. Flames were put off by then. But just touching to console her burnt my mom’s fingers.
I called 999.
Next I ran towards the blast scene. My house has two entrances. The main door in the front and there is one more door on the side, through the pantry. The kitchen is located outside the house. To go there, we need to step out through the pantry door and take a few steps. The moment I looked out the pantry door, I was shell-shocked. Smoke everywhere. Glass scattered. Kitchen was on fire. Everything was burning. My brothers were already there. One of them disconnected the gas cylinder and threw it away from the kitchen. Due to the fire, the electricity to the whole house was tripped. We could not get the water motor going. Meaning there was no water in the tap or pipe. Thankfully, there were a few 20 liters drinking water bottles. We quickly opened them and started spraying water everywhere.
Within minutes the fire brigade arrived and took over the scene.
Ambulance came a few minutes later. They started working on my maid. Gave her emergency first aid and quickly took her away.
We waited till the police completed the formalities. Forensics arrived to the scene an hour later to determine the cause of fire. After scrambling through the debris, they finally managed to find the cause. There was a leak in the gas pipe. Probably started sometime the night before. The door, window and exhaust fan was closed overnight. So the kitchen had become a literal gas chamber. As soon as she went in and ‘probably’ turned on the stove, it blew up. The intensity of the blast was so severe that 2-3 cm glass pieces from the window pierced into the concrete walls of my house. Despite our best attempts, those pieces are not coming out.
My brother went to the hospital while me and my other brother went to the police station to give our statements and finish the police report.
At the hospital, the doctor’s diagnosis was even scarier – “81% 2nd and 3rd degree burns. Patient is very critical. We have sedated her and put her on life support”. They are giving medication to keep her blood pressure up and heart pumping. She is in the ICU Burn Ward and doctors have given a very low probability of survival. Several surgeries need to be done, first one today. This is to release blood flow in her arms and abdomen. Pressure buildup has resulted in blockages in different parts of her body. Her entire body is bandaged except her face which is also completely burnt but they’ve not bandaged it.
Her name is Azeb Abebe. She is a 25 yr old Ethiopian lady with a 4 yr old son back in Ethiopia. Her mother is partially disabled with 1 healthy leg and her father is terminally ill. She has been working with my family for the last 9 months. We recruited her through a local manpower agency. Her paperwork is fine and she was working with us legally. We were so impressed with her work that within 3 months of working with us, we gave her a raise. She had adapted to an Indian household very well and was now cooking food better than us. Her room is fully furnished with all amenities. And we have taken very good care of her. She is a very warm hearted, modest and honest person. In 9 months of employment, we never had to question her about missing things. She was well behaved and very nice with our kids. There is a bible in Ethiopian language at her bedside.
And thus it hurts more to see a good woman so close to the doors of death. As her sponsor and employer, we will do whatever it takes to give her all medication attention. Her family has been informed about the mishap. We have also informed the Ethiopian Consulate about the accident.
Right now, our biggest challenge is the rising medical bills. In 4 days, the current outstanding bill at Rashid Hospital is Dh 42,150 (USD 11,472). She is in ward 23, bed 6A. The estimated daily expense is around Dh 10,000 (USD 2,721) per day and expected to increase when the surgeries start. Hoping that she survives, and we pray that she does, she needs to spend up to 3 months at the hospital. We are looking at close to Dh 900,000 (USD 245,000) in medical expenses only.
Honestly, these expenses are beyond my modest monthly paycheck and I would urge and sincerely request you to please come forward with any donation possible to cater for her medical treatment.
Any assistance will be sincerely appreciated.
With hope and prayers,
21/July/2012 - Edited to add:
We have already started digging into our assets to cover the initial hospital bills. This will cover just a fraction of the cost but it all adds up. So far, we have
1. Liquidated term deposits in Noor Bank.
2. Liquidated our investment in personal gold.
3. Put up my car for sale. Had bought it 6 months back.
4. Put up property in Hyderabad (India) for sale.
I urge you to please come forward for any assistance. Thanks in advance.
24/July/2012 - Edited to add:
Donations can be made using any of the following options:
1. Directly transfer to a bank account in UAE
HSBC Account # : 001412261001
IBAN # : AE870200000001412261001
Account Name : Masood Salem
Branch: HSBC, Airport Road, Abu Dhabi (UAE)
2. Directly transfer to a bank account in India:
HDFC Account # : 00091140042150
Account Name: Masood Salem
Branch: HDFC, Kasturba Rd, Bangalore (India)
3. Pay through PayPal using the following link (managed by my brother)
4. Transfer through Western Union to “Masood Salem” and send the MTCN code to me through email.
Looking forward to active contributions towards this cause.