Donna Wharerahi stood on the grass in front of the charred remains of her daughter’s Rotorua flat this morning, held both hands to her face and burst into tears.
“Just seeing the state of this house, how can anyone survive this? Even the clothesline is burned.”
Wharerahi’s 25-year-old daughter was this morning taken to Waikato Hospital suffering injuries after her Perepe St flat caught fire about 2.30am today. She was to have surgery today after suffering burns to her foot, shoulder and hand, her mother said.
Her daughter was alone in the flat and asleep in bed when the fire ripped through the two-bedroom flat.
Wharerahi said she got a call from her son at 4.23am to say her daughter had been taken to Rotorua Hospital with burns on her legs.
She went to the hospital, but she said she was “too hysterical” and couldn’t see her daughter. She returned home to get her other younger children to school before heading to her daughter’s flat to see the damage for herself.
She was at the flat when the Rotorua Daily Post spoke with her, waiting for her sister to pick her up and drive her to Waikato Hospital.
She said her daughter lived with her best friend, but he was away for the weekend.
She couldn’t understand how the fire happened because her daughter was careful and particular about things and didn’t cook, so it was unlikely to have started in the kitchen.
“She called me last night to put some money in her account so she could get Uber Eats.”
She said her daughter was a musician and all her equipment, including a set of drums, an electric guitar, an amplifier and her laptop with all her music on it would have been destroyed in the fire. She said it was heartbreaking because her daughter didn’t have insurance.
“Everything that’s in that flat belonged to her.”
Her daughter had two cars and both were destroyed — a BMW that was parked in the driveway and another small car that was parked close behind the garage door in the driveway that also had extensive damage from the fire.
Wharerahi described her daughter as her “best friend” and said they were especially close since she had recently lost her grandmother.
“She is alive, and that’s all that matters right now.”
The flat is joined to another two-bedroom flat where Andrew Williams lives. He told the Rotorua Daily Post this morning he was surprised he didn’t hear the fire.
“All I heard was her yelling out ‘help, help’.”
Williams said he heard her screaming outside his bedroom window about 2.30am, and when he looked out, he saw his neighbour running around outside yelling out for someone to call 111 because she didn’t have a phone.
“When I looked out the window, I could see flames coming out the door [of his neighbour’s flat].”
Williams, who had no power this morning, said he had lived at the flat for more than a year and hoped the damage next door wasn’t going to mean he’d need to move.
A Fire and Emergency New Zealand spokeswoman said crews received several calls about 2.35am.
When crews arrived, the house was well ablaze, she said.
Three appliances went to the scene and left about 5am.
Police were alerted about 3am. A spokeswoman said it didn’t appear the fire was being treated as suspicious.