Dubai: An Indian couple who died in a fire in Dubai yesterday were preparing an iftar meal for their neighbours, the neighbours said today.
Rijesh Kalangadan, 38, and his wife Jeshi Kandamangalath, 32, were preparing Vishusadhya, a festival meal, for their neighbours to end their fast later in the day.
At least 16 were killed and nine others were injured in the blaze in Al Ras area, which Dubai Civil Defence attributed to a lack of compliance with building security and safety requirements.
Kalangadan worked as a business development manager with a travel and tourism company while Kandamangalath was a schoolteacher.
Hailing from Kerala, they were celebrating Vishu, the Hindu harvest festival of the south Indian state on Saturday. They were making Vishusadhya, a vegetarian festival feast served on a banana leaf, and had invited their Muslim neighbours, a group of bachelors from Kerala, for iftar.
Riyas Kaikambam, who lived with seven roommates in apartment number 409, said the couple who lived in 406 – adjacent to the flat 405 where the fire started – were very friendly.
Kaikambam, who runs a 12-year-old mobile shop in the building, said: “They used to live in the next building earlier. They moved to our building two years ago.”
The couple used to invite Kaikambam and his roommates during their festivals.
“They had invited us during Onam and Vishu lunches earlier also. This time, they told us to come for iftar as it is Ramadan.”
Kaikambam said he last saw the couple outside their apartment. “I could see the teacher was crying,” he recalled, adding that the couple went back into their studio flat.
“There was no response to calls later. I could see Rijesh’s last seen status on WhatsApp at 12.35pm. I just can’t believe the man who helped me book my flight ticket for Sunday, the man who invited me for iftar, is gone [along with his wife].”
His roommate Suhail Kopa, who was not home during the fire, said: “We are so devastated about losing our neighbours. They are people whom we used to meet and greet every day. It is heartbreaking to think of going to live in the same place where we lost 16 neighbours, some of whom were close to us.”
Meanwhile, a family member of Kalangadan said the couple was scheduled to fly home for the house-warming of their dream home next month.
Speaking to Gulf News from Kerala, Subramanian, paternal uncle of Kalangadan, said the couple had recently visited their families and had decided to return for the housewarming. “They had called home and wished everyone Vishu by noon here. Everyone was so happy till this tragic news came. Their parents are distraught,” he said.
Colleagues remembered Kandamangalath as a humble and pleasant teacher who was popular among her students and colleagues. She had worked with Crescent School in Dubai for over five years and moved to Woodlem Park School in the new Indian academic year, which began this month.
“She started working with us April 1 onwards. She had become friendly with everyone within this short span of time. She was very active in a recent school iftar we had. We are all shocked and sad about this tragedy. I am personally more pained as she was my daughter’s teacher as well. We are hosting a mourning session at the school tomorrow morning,” said Poornima Nambiar, Group HR manager, Woodlem Park School.
A former colleague at Crescent School, Jayaseema S, said it was a great loss to everyone who knew Kandamangalath.
“Jeshi was very helpful and supportive. She had a lot of friends, and she was popular among the students. We cannot believe she had such an untimely and tragic end. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family. Some of us former colleagues are trying to see her for one last time,” she added.