An Indian dentist working at the Ganta United Methodist Hospital (GUMH) in Nimba County died on Sunday, September 3, when fire gutted his apartment at about 11 p.m., “while he was deep in sleep,” neighbors suspect.
The cause of the fire is yet to be established, but a private generator that was supplying electricity to the apartment at the time of the incident is believed to be the cause of the fire. The main power line to the hospital supplied by the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) had reportedly developed technical problems as a result of the heavy downpour earlier that day.
The late Dr. Shan Sam Matthew, 22, earlier this year signed a contract with the hospital that would expire in December, according to hospital sources. The hospital administration as well as the United Methodist Church leadership is yet to make an official statement. Prior to his death on Sunday, Dr. Matthew tirelessly worked with the hospital, sometimes assisted by nursing students. He lived in a duplex annex to another doctor’s apartment, but fortunately, occupants of that building and the doctor had left for Monrovia before Sunday’s fire disaster.
Some of the neighbors reported the next morning that they heard someone yelling for help when the fire was blazing, but said they did not know which direction the cry was coming from, and that the blaze was too heavy to bring under control. Other residents who tried to pull Dr. Matthew out of the apartment through the window could not succeed because of the small window bars. The entire duplex was gutted by the raging fire, leaving Dr. Matthew’s corpse burnt beyond recognition.
Officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) are investigating the situation to ascertain the actual cause of the fire. “What a painful and sorrowful death for one to experience,” said a lady in tears as she shook her head in disbelief when the corpse was being moved from the duplex. Women at the scene wailed uncontrollably for the tremendous suffering the good doctor must have experienced.
The Ganta United Methodist Hospital has one of the best dental services in the country, with dentists from India working at the hospital for many years.
Wender K. Massaquoi contributed to this report.