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Feeling the love in wake of disaster

The community has rallied around a South American family who lost all their belongings in a house fire at Okitu on Saturday morning.

“We're still dealing with it,” Julian Vera Gil said of the inferno that turned his family's rental home into a charred ruin.

By the time Julian returned a few hours later from hospital where he had been treated for smoke inhalation, the community had already stepped up to help out.

An Okitu resident provided temporary accommodation while others supplied Julian's partner Dafny Tirado Sommella and children Maya and Nicko with tables, beds, a microwave oven and other essentials, including an espresso machine.

A givealittle page has also been set up to help the Chilean family.

The fire started at about 8am on Saturday.

“Dafny saw the smoke,” said Julian. “I saw a little flame on the couch and tried to throw it out of the house but the flames tripled in size.”

Dafny grabbed the smallest of their children, Nicko, and escaped from the house.

“I thought my daughter was following me but she was still inside,” she said. “Julian checked two rooms and found her in the last room. She was frozen.”

“I put her out the window,” said Julian.

He went back into the burning house but the smoke was so black he was forced to run back outside.

The family lost all their belongings, including Dafny's glasses. None of their belongings were insured.

However, when she visited Specsavers to replace the glasses, staff gave her a pair for free.

Julian and Dafny could not be more thankful to the people of Gisborne.

“The community has been amazing,” he said.

“We are so grateful and feel so blessed with the amount of help we have had. The landlord of the burnt house has been kind. The community brought us hot food every day.

“We're pretty sure something good will come out of this.”

Friends of the family set up a givealittle page and as of this morning over $4800 had been donated.

“The community's support has been breathtaking,” page creator Claudio Gomez wrote on the page.

“Dafny and Julian can definitely feel the love that has been given to them and they are feeling really grateful.

“Eleven years living in Gisborne and they have never seen such a reaction from the community.”

■ Donations can be made via this shortcut to the givealittle page — tinyurl.com/y85x5vfw

GRATEFUL: Having escaped a house fire that destroyed their belongings, Julian Vera Gil and partner Dafny Tirado Sommella are thanking the Gisborne community for helping out with accommodation and supplies for them and their children Maya (left) and Nicko. Picture by Paul Rickard