Nepal — Around 500 people of Syaulibang, Pyuthan have been living under the open sky braving chilling cold after fire gutted the entire village on Friday.
I have eaten nothing for three days. Please give me something to eat, pleaded Belmati Sherchan of Syaulibang-5.
The villagers had gone to the local community forest on Friday morning after the forest had been opened for cutting elephant grass. Everyone from Syaulibang 5, 6 and 7 had gone to the forest to get grass so that they could thatch the roofs of their houses.
When we returned, the houses had been burnt to cinders, Sherchan said breaking into tears. Her family of four has been living under the open sky with nothing to eat.
Nobody knows how the fire broke out and the locals guess the houses might have caught fire while the children were playing. Fifty-seven houses were gutted in the fire.
The village is a 10-hour trek from district headquarters. The police and relief team could reach the place only on Sunday morning. The relief team had taken some beaten rice and noodles, which was not sufficient to feed all the victims.
The police have estimated a loss of around 35 million rupees. No casualty has been reported but more than 200 children and elderly have fallen ill due to lack of shelter in the biting cold. To make matters worse, the nearby health centers do not have enough Please send us some food to eat and clothes to ward off the cold, pleaded Khani Sherchan.
The villagers don´t even have drinking water as supply of water from the local Thulogaun Drinking Water Project has been disrupted after the fire. Electric poles have also been damaged and there is no electricity in the village.
Home Minister announces relief
Meanwhile, Home Minister Bhim Rawal, who visited the village on Sunday, has announced a compensation of Rs 5,000 to each family. Likewise, tents, clothes and other relief materials have also been flown in through choppers.
More than 500 villagers, all victims of a devastating fire, have been spending hungry and cold nights in the open due to lack of food and shelter, locals said.
Fifty-two houses and 23 cowsheds were gutted when fire broke out in Syaulibang VDC, bordering Baglung and Rolpa districts, about 50 kilometres from Khalanga, the district headquarters of Pyuthan, on Friday afternoon. Five other houses were partially burnt.
Pyuthan Chief District Officer Krishnashyam Budhathoki, who toured the site today, said property worth Rs 35 million has been gutted.
Home Minister Bhim Rawal, who also inspected the site today, distributed Rs 5, 000 each to victims from the government’s side and some relief items provided by the regional administration office, Surkhet and the Nepal Red Cross, among others.
Nepali Congress chief whip Laxman Ghimire accompanied Rawal.
While the over 500 villagers of 52 houses went without food for two whole days, children and the elderly have started falling ill due to the shivering cold. Former VDC secretary Shumsher Budha said the fire victims have nothing with them except the clothes they are wearing.
The fire broke out from the house of one Bhaktabir Gharti of ward number 5 at 1:45 pm on Friday while children were playing with matches, according to Police Inspector Madhukarjung Bista, who has been deputed at the site. The 52 houses are among 127 houses of ward numbers 5, 6 and 7.
Children have stopped going to school after their books and bags were reduced to ashes. “The school is on but we dont have students for now,” Kritiman BM, headmaster of the Shiva Secondary School, said.
A 13-member team has been formed to collect relief items. VDC secretary Bhoj Bahadur Bhandari said they have not been able to get enough relief despite frantic efforts for the same.. “The victims need immediate relief, but nothing much has been collected,” he said.
Recalling the incident, local Srijana Sen said: “The flames we had seen rising from Gharti’s house soon spread to the entire settlement.”
The fire spread fast as the houses had thatched roofs. Most of the villagers had gone to fetch straw from the forest when the fire broke out.
The victims are an angry lot as they have not been getting the support they need in times like this.
The fire has also affected the village-based post office, the UML party office and the hydro power wires. “The VDC is in darkness now,” Punbir Sherchan, a local, said.