AROUND 80 people were made homeless after an inferno destroyed 17 double-storey wooden shophouses and 13 stalls in Sebuyau about an hours drive from Simunjan Sunday night.
"All of us tried to put out the fire with extinguishers but it kept growing," said one of the residents Shin Ah Buey, 47.
Shin said his niece, Sim Hui Yen, 17, was the first to spot smoke coming out of the unit beside theirs around 11pm. He was watching television in the living room when Sim told him about the smoke.
Twelve local volunteer firefighters worked hard at putting out the blaze but with just pails, fire extinguishers and hoses, their effort proved futile.
The Fire and Rescue Department only received the distress call at 12.01am the next day and dispatched a 12-strong team from Simunjan fire station to the scene, arriving there almost one hour later along with 13 members of the Civil Defence Department.
Simunjan Fire and Rescue chief Sekan Gundah said water was not a problem because they were pumping from the river nearby.
"The problem was that the burning row of shophouses was already beyond saving by the time they arrived," he said, adding that all they could do was prevent the blaze from spreading to the five other rows of shophouses and two petrol stations nearby.
"This we did by 1.47am," Sekan said.
At 3pm yesterday, however, the fire flared up again but was quickly put out 15 minutes later.
Meanwhile, Sebuyau Kapitan, Law Kim Sheng promptly brought all the fire victims to Chung Hua Primary School for shelter.
Law said the fire caused huge losses to the victims who had been living there for more than 60 years.
The schools headmistress, Kua Tsuey Jen, helped put up the fire victims in classrooms and the multi-purpose hall. She also sought the help of her teachers to cook for the victims.
"Three of my teachers stayed at the shophouses. I have told the parents that it would be alright for them not to send their children to school today (yesterday)," said the headmistress.
One of the victims, tailor Sii Siew Hung, 65, lamented, "now we not only cannot operate our business but have no place to stay as well. I hope the authority would come up with a quick solution. I lost more than RM50,000 in the fire."
Destroyed in the fire were Sii's tailoring shop, Chung Hua Association premises, two coffee shops, six grocery stores, one hardware shop, one stationary shop, one furniture shop and a retail shop.
Cause of fire was still under investigation and total loss was yet to be estimated as at press time.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
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