As firefighters tried to rescue residents trapped in a fire at a Mumbai apartment building this morning, a 10-year-old girl saved the day with lessons she had just learnt in Grade 3 in school.
Little Zen Sadavarte didn't lose her nerve and floored her family, neighbours and even firemen with her pluck.
Four people, including an elderly woman, died and 16 people were injured in the fire at Crystal Tower in the busy Parel area of central Mumbai.
The fire reportedly started because of a fault in the electrical wiring. Residents trapped on the top floor were evacuated using a crane.
Zen says she was sleeping at the time; her mother spotted the smoke and woke up the family.
"There was blasts burning and just gasses gathering over the house and the room. We couldn't breathe, I couldn't breathe so we went into the kitchen. My father thought that the kitchen would be much safer than anything," she said.
In the middle of utter chaos, Zen used fire safety tips to help save her family and neighbours, urging them not to panic and asking them to use a wet hanky to breathe. Neighbours rushed out of their flats and one girl was out of breath because of asthma.
"In asthma you can't breathe well, the carbon was hurtful for her. I gathered everyone at the gallery of 1603." She also told everyone that using the lift was the most dangerous option.
On seeing her mother cry, Zen decided to act. "So basically I gathered all my strength not seeing people in panic but I was calm. I got a tear of the clothes. I tore them all up into bits and chits of handkerchiefs. Then I added water into it. So when you breathe through it, you get purified air in the place of carbon. So that purified air got me to tell everyone to insist everyone to use it. And so, no one suffocates or be ill. I told them to use my air purifier. They just had to put it on their mouth and nose and breathe normally," she said.
When the firefighters asked people to come down, the Class 6 student told them it was not a good idea. "I took the phone and said we cannot come down as it will create a lot of panic and panic won't allow us to breathe," Zen told reporters.
Zen said she had done much research into disaster management, when she was all of seven. "I researched in grade 3 because you are judged over one topic. And I took disaster management. I don't know whether my data is saved right now or not but..." The knowledge certainly helped when she needed it the most.
The fire that broke out on the twelfth floor of 17-storey building quickly spread to the upper floors and neighbouring flats.
Thick, black smoke spread through the building's staircases, making it even more difficult to bring residents out. Two persons died in a lift and many were stuck on the stairs.
Crystal Tower has over 100 residents.