SIBU: A total of 118 villagers from 12 families in Kpg Nangka were made homeless after eight double-storey wooden houses on the bank of Rajang River were razed in a pre-dawn fire yesterday.
A victim, 72-year-old Ishak Muhing, said the fire started around 4.30am when his family members were sleeping.
He said his son suffered injuries to his neck, hand and back while a daughter suffered serious burns on her right hand and forehead.
“I could only salvage a car in time,” Muhing said, adding that three motorcycles were burnt.
He also said eight family members, including six children, escaped unhurt.
Muhing has a son working with The Borneo Post as a reporter.
The reporter son rushed home from Saratok after being told of the incident by his sister.
Although the blaze could have started from a ground floor kitchen of one of the houses, Muhing, however, said no one was cooking at that time.
Another victim, identified only as Caroline who works at Sibu Hospital, said it was shortly upon returning to bed after visiting the toilet when she heard the commotion.
“I thought neighbours were quarrelling,” said the 30-something woman.
Later, upon realising there was a fire, she said she brought her 14-year-old child out of the house.
She managed to save a motorcycle, a bicycle and her children’s school bags.
Her two other children are on holiday in Kuching with her mother.
Sibu Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) chief Abdul Mutalib Rashid said 22 fire fighters in two fire engines, a van and three motorcycles were dispatched to the scene following a distress call received at 4.52am.
“The fire fighters are from the Central and Sg Merah stations,” he said, adding five rescue workers from the Civil Defence Department were also there to help.
Nangka assemblyman Dr Annuar Rapaee, Sibu Municipal Council chairman Datuk Tiong Thai King and Temenggong Vincent Lau were also seen at the scene.
Mutalib said the firemen’s effort to put out the fire was hampered by low water pressure.
The cause of the fire has not been pin-pointed.
Reacting to a victim’s claim that none of the four telephone calls to ‘999’ she made was picked up, Mutalib explained that a distress call would be diverted to another station if the 999 line at the station in Kuching was busy.
“The distress call was diverted to the station in Melaka at 4.49am which alerted the station in Sibu at 4.52am,” he explained.