"We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open." ~ Jawaharal Nehru

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Out of the ashes... We will rise!

More about the fire that necessitated a CODE RED in K.K. Song.

Rumah Kilau at Nanga Lijau was totally razed to the ground in a fire that started about 1am.

2 people perished in the fire. A father and his adult daughter. From what I heard, the father ran into the burning house when he heard his daughter calling out to him. In the end, he succumbed to his 97% burns in Sibu Hospital. More about the fire in the Borneo Post at the link below.

K.K. Song decided to send a mobile team to the site a day later to provide medical support. 

Rumah Kilau... or what's left of it!

Rumah Kilau is a half an hour boat ride upriver from Song. To reach the long house one has to climb a steep & rickety plank walk.

1 step at a time!

Apparently no one made an attempt to put out the fire when it started cause it wasn't feasible to haul water up the 20 feet embankment. Instead, they just ran deeper into the jungle while watching their longhouse go up in flames. For your information, the is no 'bomba' facilities in Song. The nearest fire station is 1 hour away upriver in Kapit or downriver in Kanowit. Hard to imagine right? No firefighting services in this day and age in a town that has 2 petrol stations, 2 secondary schools, 6 primary schools, a clinic cum hospital, a police station and a bank! Even if we had firemen, I wonder if they were able to aim their hoses up this steep embankment from their fire fighter boats. Hmmm... 

What greated me at the top of the steep plank walk was total DESTRUCTION!

Everything was razed to the ground. Only the 'belian' or ironwood pillars was left standing. Even the tops of the coconut trees were not spared. They were all charred. Gives a new meaning to those 'burnt coconut' drinks you get in Thailand. Even after 24 hours, the site was still smoldering away. I could feel the heat emanating from the ground.

I could only imagine how hot the heat must have been during the height of the fire. Even the dinnerware in the picture below has melted into a blob of glass with little resemblance of what it might originally have been. I cringe to think of the final moments of horror as the 2nd victim faced death in the inferno. Such a horrible way to go. I can only hope that it was quick.

They had erected a little hut at the hill over looking the longhouse, or whats left of it. This was where we set up the mobile clinic. Most of the patients I saw were those with hypertension, diabetes or some chronic disorder that had lost all their medications in the fire. Rest assured, many had BPs that were sky high due to the exhaustion, lack of sleep, anxiety & heat. My MA took care of the acute problems such as headaches, gastritis, diarrhoea & skin lesions. It was hot, hot, hot under that zinc roof and I was sweating buckets.

The victims of the fire basically ran out of the burning longhouse with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They have now taken refuge in a hut which was used to press rubber sheets. You see only ladies and children here as the men are busy sourcing for materials to build a new longhouse or down in Song buying supplies.

Despite the tragedy, life goes on. Cooking is done communally in the open and everybody chips in whenever or however they can.

A spot of colour in otherwise sombre surroundings

Some of them have even moved deeper into the jungle and have created makeshift homes for their family. 

Zinc house put together
Work in progress

What really surprised me was the speed these people have rebounded after the tragedy. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, work on a new longhouse has already begun. With help from generous contributors, the supporting pillars for a new longhouse is already in place. 

Help is still pouring in from various quarters. However, I hope this tragedy also highlights the need for proper  firefighting services in the Song district, including a firefighter boat to ply the Rejang. Please, please, please resurface the plans for a equipped, functioning fire station here in Song.

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