22 May 2014

Homeless Within Hours

I was on leave from school today, packing my bags for Mountains Echoes in Thimphu when an explosion drove me out of my house. It was fire right near our school gate, houses were burning like match boxes. I know every soul living there. I would always admire a peaceful man on wheelchair sitting on the balcony of his newly constructed home facing the morning sun when I walk to school every morning, and now his home was up in flames. When I reached closer I could see the metallic skeleton of his wheelchair glowing in fire.
I took out my phone to take a shot of the fire when the second explosion went off. By then it seemed like the fire was going to be very bad. Two tradition houses located very close to the burning cottages were beginning to smoke and catch sparks of flame. If the fire couldn't be contained the fate of many house that lie behind those houses will be ashes in hours. There was just a thin line of hope. If everybody present there threw a ball of mud each perhaps a difference could be made but despite my request many people behind me chose to enjoy the show and shoot movies.
Wooden Cottages burning like match boxes
By then our school boys have joined team. They were untrained and inexperienced yet they have braved to join the fight. They transported hundreds of buckets of water. On the other end huge group of boys were lined up and were salvaging belongs of eight families whose houses were almost catching fire. The rooms were filling up with smoke and ladder was very narrow but despite that every little item from those houses were transported to the paddy fields where we handed over to the owners. 
Teachers were anxiously running around to make sure that no student was endangering themselves. After few hours battalion of young soldiers marched at the scene, then we withdrew our students hoping the soldiers would do better job.
I found that one of my slippers was not on my foot. When I was looking for my lost slipper it broke my heart to see shoes and clothes scattered all over the ground with children's toys and family photographs- all those small things that holds years of memory, that that have changed many places and homes and traveled with family. We randomly collected all those pieces of memories and took them to the paddy fields where rescued things were piled up, to be segregated in better times. 
I couldn't really look straight at the family members who were made homeless within hours and screaming at heavens now. Though rescued they furniture were all over the place, some broken and some taken into wrong places. Their cloths and cookeries were scattered like seeds sown in the field. Some didn't know where their children were taken... they were shattered. I found a pair of rubber slippers in the mud, I wore them and walked home. 
By 2 pm fire fighter from Police and PHPA projects have brought the fire under control with the support of hundreds of office goers. The two houses that narrowly escaped were partially damaged by fire and water. Many families were homeless. Among them were eleven of our students.
School administration gave Nu.5000 each to our students as emergency relieve and further support was mobilized. Dzongkhag administration and school arranged relief shelter for the affected families in our empty classrooms until better shelter could be given.

**During the four hours I was at the scene I couldn't dare take out my phone to take a picture, in such times it seemed to me very disrespectful to resort to luxury of taking pictures. Because there are better thing you could do. The picture I posted was taken the moment I came out of my house. It reminds me of many pictures of Wangdue Dzong fire I took, but those were taken when all hope was lost and when you can do nothing at all.


  1. i wish that they will able to overcome this situation.

  2. This is a very devastating news. I hope the family gets support from the government and resettle soon in their new home.


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