SIBU: More than half of Machan Bazaar, about 30 minutes’ drive from Kanowit town, was wiped out when 10 wooden shop houses were razed early yesterday morning, leaving only seven shop houses standing.
A tamu market standing in between the two rows of shop houses that housed coffee shops and grocery shops was however safe.
Machan is a small town in the outback of central Sarawak, serving mainly the rural community.
Sixty people were made homeless, while loss to property including merchandise like agro-based products in the grocery shops was estimated at RM5 million.
The fire victims are currently putting up with friends and relatives. Yesterday morning, they gathered at a community hall while waiting for help.
The blaze was so intense that trees and plants a distance away wilted, and two Kancil cars partially melted.
Thankfully, the fire did not spread to the other two rows of shop houses.
Only one casualty was reported. A coffee shop owner in his 60s suffered 25 per cent burn on his limbs and stomach while trying to escape the fire.
He was rushed by an ambulance to Kanowit Hospital. The fire was the first to have hit the 60-year-old buildings.
A victim said she and her husband were sleeping when the fire broke out.
“A neighbour woke us up around 2.30am,” she told reporters, adding that she had been living at the shop house for 24 years.
The 44-year-old woman, who only wanted to be named Wong, is now taking refuge at her father-in-law’s house at another row of shop houses, next to the burnt site.
According to the victims, none of their belongings were salvaged as they had to run for their lives, leaving all valuables behind.
Kanowit Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) chief Mutton Glanggang said his department received a distress call at 3.15am, after which he and 14 of his men immediately rushed to the scene in a fire engine, reaching there in half an hour .
They were assisted by Sibu Bomba headed by its chief Abdul Rashid Mutalib and nine others.
Mutton said they managed to bring the blaze under control at 4.15am and put out the inferno at 5.15am.