Bhutanese architecture is known for its lavish woodwork. Until recently even nails were shaped from wood. It is the wood that gives beauty to country’s various infrastructures. The rich forest provides easy supply of cheap timber for construction. However this very material that we pride in is the greatest weakness of our architecture.
|Ruins of Drukgyel Dzong. Destroyed by fire in 1950s|
Ruins of Drukgyel Dzong in Paro and Singye Dzong in Mongar are chilling reminder of how vulnerable our structures are against fire. Thimphu Tashichodzong and Paro Rimpung Dzong had to be reconstructed after major fire disasters.
Every year several families are made homeless across country. In 2002 February my village lost twenty five houses to fire. I was then in Monger working in construction of Kurizampa. When I returned home, it was gone. Hundreds of years of family memories are smoked into the frozen sky. Those were the hard times in our life; sleeping in tents with icy ground underneath. My baby sister was only two days old and had to spend her tender days in the open winter air.
When I heard of the biggest fire disaster in Bumthang Chamkhar this morning it broke my heart, because I truly know the pain of being homeless at the face of approaching winter. It is sad to share that disaster has just begun for them, what follows after today will devastate many families. In building my village back we saw lots of deaths, which were the aftermath of the fire. It became impossible to get manpower and cost of material and labor shot record high. It took us over five years to get back into the warmth of our homes despite the generous help from the throne. And just when we had our home back my tired stepfather gave up on his life. Eight years on, we still have a few families hoping to get their house roofed.
|Photo by Kesang Tshering, Kuensel.|
With already high demand for construction labor across the country I can’t imagine how long it would take for the many victims to have their homes back. For now it is very inspiring to see how quickly government reacted in dealing with the disaster. In few years time they will have new homes but what they lost today would go on to change the course of their lives. I only wish them hope and courage to go on.