Heartbreak For 300 Residents As Fire Destroys Longhouse, Puts Damper On Gawai Dayak Celebrations

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SARIKEI, Jun 1 – The Gawai Dayak celebrations took on a sad and heart-rending note for about 300 residents in Sungai Mugu, Muara Payang here when fire destroyed their 16-door longhouse Tuesday evening. The blaze which struck the Rumah Benang Anak Pirang at 6.45pm, left the residents homeless, and with just the clothes on their back.

The fire is believed to have started from the kitchen of a room at the longhouse. A resident, Jakeni Jeral, 57, said he and his wife had just arrived at the longhouse from Bandar Sarikei when the incident occurred. He said they could not salvage any belonging as the fire had already engulfed the longhouse. He said all of their preparations to celebrate the Gawai Dayak on Wednesday have gone up in smoke.

“What is important is that we managed save ourselves and families. (However) We have been rendered homeless (by the fire). I appeal (to the authorities) that all fire victims be relocated to Bandar Sarikei as here, there is no place for us to take shelter. The other residents were also unable to salvage their belongings as the fire had spread quickly. They were nevertheless, grateful that no one was injured,” Jakeni, who has lived in the longhouse for five years told the reporters here.

Meanwhile, Kuching Fire and Rescue Department assistant director (operations) Farhan Sufyan Borhan said a team of seven firefighters and rescuers from the Sarikei fire and rescue station were despatched to the scene by boat in a 45-minute journey.The Sarikei Social Welfare Department said the fire victims would be temporarily accomodated at the Sekolah Kebangsaan Muara Payang on Tuesday night.

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