'My flesh just melted'

'My flesh just melted'
BURNED: Miss Joena Shivani Thomas Nathan is unsure how her sari caught fire.
PHOTO: The New Paper

She was at a temple to pray when she found herself engulfed in flames after her sari suddenly caught fire.

Horrified worshippers looked on as Miss Joena Shivani Thomas Nathan screamed for help while ripping off her burning clothes.

By the time the flames were put out, Miss Joena had third-degree burns that covered 60 per cent of her body. The burns were so severe, doctors did not expect her to live beyond 72 hours.

The freelance make-up artist, 37, who is now recovering, said she was at the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple at Serangoon Road at around 3.30pm on Jan 20 to pray. There were about 100 devotees then.

Miss Joena suddenly noticed the air around her was thick with smoke.

When she looked down, she saw the hem of her sari had caught fire. It was a small flame and she tried to brush it off with her hands.

But within seconds, the fire had spread to the rest of her sari.

Miss Joena told The New Paper recently: "I became like a fireball. I was screaming for help, but no one helped me. I guess they were too shocked to react and didn't know what to do.

"At that point, I didn't care any more and just ripped off my sari and my undergarments."

She recalled tearing off her clothes while making her way to a restroom to splash water on herself.

"I ripped off my burning clothes until I stood naked from the waist down, dressed in only my sari blouse," she said.

Miss Joena said a young woman came forward minutes later and covered her with a gunny sack.

Somebody used a fire extinguisher to put out the fire that was burning the sari.

The young woman with the gunny sack took a sari from a nearby tray of offerings and used it to cover Miss Joena.

Miss Joena was given a chair to sit on while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

She said: "I was conscious throughout the ordeal. I could see that my flesh had melted away.

"I could see my raw flesh underneath. But I didn't feel any pain."

It is not unusual for third-degree burn victims not to feel any pain because of damage to their nerve endings.


An ambulance arrived about 10 minutes later and took Miss Joena to the Singapore General Hospital (SGH).

A doctor told her she was extremely lucky to survive as a large part of her body had been burned, including her arms and the areas below her breasts.

She said: "I could have died. When I was admitted to hospital, they expected me to live for only another 72 hours."

The Singapore Civil Defence Force told TNP that it received a call about the incident at around 4.30pm and sent two fire bikes, a fire engine and an ambulance to the temple.

Its spokesman said the cause of the fire was still under investigation.

Miss Joena said she has no idea how her clothes caught fire.

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