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Officials and volunteers clean the area of the fire

Fire destroys six buildings, 22 shops in Chamkhar

Fourth major fire in six years to hit the town
Disaster: Charred CGI sheets and other metal items, along with several exploded cooking gas cylinders littered the scene of the December 28 fire in Chamkhar, yesterday.

RBP personnel, forest rangers, Desuups, civil servants, monks and volunteers, among others, could be seen cleaning the debris left by the fire which razed four double-storey buildings and caused the demolition of two more in Chamkhar.

Most of them had also been involved in fighting the fire the previous night.

Officials and volunteers loaded the charred debris onto trucks to be transported out of the area. Excavators, cranes, trucks, tractors and tankers were also deployed to clean up the debris and make sure the fire was completely extinguished.

Some institutions served refreshments to the people working at the site.

Officials said the clean up operation will continue from 8am today until all debris has been removed.

CGI sheets and other charred items were loaded onto tractors and trucks to be moved out of the area
CGI sheets and other charred items were loaded onto tractors and trucks to be moved out of the area

There were 22 shops housed in the six traditional double-storey buildings. Two of these buildings, located one on either side of the four buildings that caught on fire, were demolished by excavators in the effort to prevent the fire from spreading.

A vegetable shed located below this line of buildings was also demolished.

The first floors of the houses, and everything within were completely destroyed.

Some of the residents of these houses sifted through the debris yesterday looking to salvage whatever may have survived the fire.

Police officials said the fire started at 8:40pm and could be contained only by around 12:30am. Two fire fighting engines of the RBP and one from the Batpalathang airport were deployed.

“We could see thick smoke coming out of one of the shops from where the fire first started,” an eyewitness said .

An official who was involved in fighting and containing the fire said people who came to help the victims could not get into the houses as gas cylinders began exploding one after another.

Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC) officials cut power to the area five minutes after the fire started. They reconnected the area only at 12:30am, once the fire was under control, according to BPC officials.

Observers said that some shops were locked during the incident as their owners had left for pilgrimage.  Fire fighters and volunteers were able to save some of the belongings from the shops before the fire engulfed the shops.

Officials suspect that the fire may have started from a cooking gas stove. They ruled out other possible causes such as a water boiler and an electric short circuit. A short circuit would have lead to a power disruption, it was reasoned.

Thinley Dema, 30, who ran a snooker hall in one of the houses said she lost everything, including all her personal belongings, to the fire. “I had bought the snooker table four months ago,” Thinley Dema said.

She said the fire was burning fiercely by the time it was brought to her attention. “I could not save anything,” said the mother of two.

Pema Yangzom, the owner of the medical shop from where the fire started said she is not sure what caused the fire. By the time she saw the fire it was burning the shop’s ceiling. “This house is all I have and now I’m worried about paying the education fees for my daughter who is studying abroad,” she said.

She lost the entire medicine stock of her shop. “I could save only two gas cylinders,” she said.

This is the fourth fire incident in Chamkhar town since 2010.

The first fire occurred on October 26, 2010, and affected 77 families. Two lives were lost. The structures were reconstructed within four months with the help of His Majesty The King’s People’s Project and the armed forces.

Two different rows of buildings were razed during the second and third incidents, which took place in February and May 2011. Owners were granted timber, CGI sheets, and other raw materials as Kidu to help rebuild the structures. There were no casualties in the second and third fires.

Nima Wangdi | Chamkhar

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