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Franciscan nun dies in Indonesian convent fire

The cause of the blaze that killed Sister Maria Zakaria Tukinem has yet to be determined

Franciscan nun dies in Indonesian convent fire

Sister Maria Zakaria Tukinem, 53, an Indonesian nun and member of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary congregation, died on March 4 during a fire at her convent on the island of Flores. (Photo supplied)

An Indonesian nun has died in a fire that badly damaged a convent on the predominantly Catholic island of Flores.

Sister Maria Zakaria Tukinem, 53, of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM) was found dead in her room following the March 4 fire that ripped through a building at the Bethlehem Convent in Totomala, a village in Nagekeo district.

Sister Hildegardis Dadi said three nuns, including herself, were at the convent when the fire broke out at around 2am.

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"I was sleeping in a room next to the kitchen, which is in a separate building from where Sister Maria was," she told UCA News.

"I was woken up by the sound of the fire and was shocked to see flames engulfing the building, including Sister Maria's room." 

Another nun in the same building where Sister Maria lives managed to escape the blaze.

Police are investigating the cause of the fire.

Sister Maria, who came from Banyuwangi, East Java, established the convent in 2015 and she and the others spent their time helping villagers develop skills such as sewing and cooking and carrying out pastoral activities.

Marianus Ngayu, Totomala's village head, said he and other villagers helped put out the fire. He said they have been left devastated by the death of Sister Maria.

"We will miss a mother figure who came a long way from her hometown in Java to live among us," he said. "She was a very friendly woman who could mix with all levels of society." 

Sister Maria's body was taken to Bajawa, capital of neighboring Ngada district, to a larger convent run by the order ahead of her funeral, Sister Hildegardis said.

Besides Flores, FMM nuns also work in other areas across Indonesia, including Jakarta, Sulawesi and Sumatra.

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