Two women volunteers killed

Two women volunteers killed

12 April 2010

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Bhutan —    Two women, who volunteered to fight a forest fire at Kabji Pateri in Punakha, were killed on the spot on Saturday, when the fire, fanned by fierce winds, engulfed them.

The fire broke out on Friday, April 9, at around 5:30 pm and villagers, including the two women, one 66 and the other 31 years old, volunteered to join the firefighting team on Saturday around 9 am.

According to forestry officials, there were five volunteers at the spot of the accident,when an unexpectedly harsh wind carried the fire towards them. “The women tried to run, but two of them fell to the ground while trying to escape. The other three escaped with minor burns on their legs,” said the forestry range officer, Kaka.

“It appears that one of the deceased, the 31-year old woman, was on the phone, when the other woman told her to run. It was too late, the fire caught up with them,” he said. The 31-year old woman is survived by her husband and a daughter, and the other by her children and grandchildren.

The forest fire broke out from Lakhu village under Guma gewog around 5:30 pm. Lakhu is located below Pateri village. “The strong afternoon winds fanned the fire beyond control, even as villagers, forestry, dzongkhag and police tried to fight the fire,” said Punakha dzongda, Kuenzang N Tshering.

“We worked the whole night and were able to control the fire around 4:30 am only,” said the dzongda. “But around 9 am on Saturday, the fire started again, probably from debris ignited by the wind.”

The fire was completely doused around 12:30 pm. The two women were killed around 11 am.

Meanwhile, even as the cause of the fire is being investigated, some villagers have informed forestry officials that it was started deliberately from a community forest in the gewog. The suspect was questioned by the police but not detained because of lack of evidence.

Kaka told Kuensel that some members of the community forest had an argument with the suspect regarding illegal logging of timber carried out by him before the fire. “They accused him of arson, but it’s yet to be confirmed.”

The Gyalpoi Zimpon’s office granted cash kidu on behalf of His Majesty the King to the deceased families immediately after the incident. “We’ll help the family members of the deceased in every possible way,” the dzongda said.

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