The three sisters who escaped a house fire that killed their parents and younger brother yesterday have spoken of their horrifying ordeal for the first time.
Tej Kafle, 49, wife Tika, 38, and youngest of four children, 8-year-old Prem perished in a blaze that engulfed their five-bedroom flat above their Everest Indian Restaurant in Waimate.
The Queen St fire in what was the old Savoy Tearoom and Bakery building broke out at around 7.40am.
Sisters Tulsi, 24, Manisha, 17, and Mamata, 11, who all sleep in the same room, woke to the fire and tried to rescue their parents and younger brother but were beaten back by smoke and flames.
They were hospitalised with minor cut and smoke inhalation injuries but discharged early yesterday evening.
The sisters were taken to uncle Bishnu Kafle's home in Christchurch where he says he will take them in.
Today, the told how they managed to get out of the burning house but are devastated that they could not save the rest of their family members.
They had been in bed in the room they shared about to get up for school when the blaze started.
"I was sitting in the bed... my sister woke up, opened the door and at that moment they were shouting out and telling, "Mum, mum," and I was wondering what happened," Manisha said.
"It was smoky. I couldn't see anything."
Tulsi managed to break a window after hitting it three or four times with her forearm.
They escaped through the smashed glass on to a balcony above shops below.
Manisha today told how she couldn't see anything inside the room.
"I wanted to save my parents," she said, and so she went back into the burning building to retrieve her cellphone.
She found her phone and came out of the building.
Manisha phoned her mother but got no answer.
She then phoned 111.
Manisha said she and her sisters were "yelling [for people] to help us".
"Unfortunately we couldn't save our parents and our little brother," Manisha said from a bed at her uncle Bishnu's home in Christchurch where they are recovering.
Tulsi said she first noticed there was a fire when a "strong wind" rushed through the door.
"I said, 'It is not earthquake, what's happening?'" Tulsi said.
She opened the door and said there was a "high wind" in the corridor.
"I called loudly my mum and dad and they didn't answer me. What to do? I hadn't any idea.
"It was really smoky.
"I broke the window and I got out.
"We are sad we could not save our parents. We are really saddened."
Today the grieving sisters remembered their parents as "really nice people".
"Every moment we are crying and remembering them. I can't forget them," Tulsi said.
As the eldest sibling, Tulsi said she has to look after her sisters now.
Their mother used to buy their clothes and cared for them all, Tulsi said.
"They did everything for us. We have no ideas."
Young Prem was today remembered as a mischievous brother who was "a bit naughty" but "really cute" and "really lovely".
"I'm going to miss every moment with my brother," Tulsi said.
The parents shared a room with the youngest child in one side of the flat, and the girls, who have only been in New Zealand for two years, shared another room on the diametrically opposite side, they said today.
When Tulsi opened the bedroom door, she was met by "really strong fire".
She called for her parents, but "they didn't answer me, they didn't yell anything".
At Timaru Hospital, the sisters were asking about the rest of their family.
But they weren't told anything until after midday yesterday, the girls said.
Tulsi injured her arm escaping the broken window and again while falling down on the tin verandah roof.
When her colleagues from nearby New World supermarket tried to help them, Tulsi thought the worst.
"I didn't think we were going to survive," Tulsi said.
"I was thinking we were going to go through the tin, and we were going to die. My mind wasn't working at that time."
The girls say they have an uncertain future. They don't know whether they will stay in New Zealand or return to Nepal.
"We have no idea at the moment," said Tulsi.
Their grandparents are currently in the country on holiday.
Family spokesman Tez Bhattarai confirmed the funeral will be held in Christchurch at 6pm today.
A Givealittle page has also been set up to take donations for the mayor's support fund.