KUALA PERLIS: Some 1,000 people were left homeless when fire destroyed nearly 100 wooden homes in two fishing villages, making it the worst tragedy to hit the coastal town here in a decade.
Initial losses in the 6pm fire yesterday were estimated to run into millions of ringgit.
The fire is said to have begun in the home of a jobless man at the fishermen's colony in Kampung Puyu.
Fanned by strong winds, the fire spread to neighbouring Kampung Seberang Tokpi.
In less than an hour, the fire destroyed more than 90 homes, forcing the state Fire and Rescue Department to call for reinforcements from volunteer fire-fighting units in Kuala Kedah and Ayer Hitam in Kedah.
The department’s senior superintendent Sharif Rasul said 10 fire engines and volunteers from all the fire stations in Perlis responded to the distress call at 6.30pm.
The fighters managed to bring the fire under control about 30 minutes later.
“Many of the burnt homes were simply built too close to each other with their zinc roofs touching other houses,” Sharif said at a press conference.
No fatalities were reported except for several villagers who suffered bruises in their haste to remove their belongings.
Victim Norhia Hashim, 46, a mother of two, said she was ironing when her husband rushed in, yelling that their neighbours’ homes were on fire.
Labourer Roslan Yatim, who has two children, said he lost all his belongings in the fire.
“What am I going to do? We have to be strong,” he added.
Roads leading to the two villages were strewn with furniture and clothings salvaged from the fire.
Several loud explosions during the fire attracted the attention of hundreds of Kuala Perlis residents and tourists waiting for the ferry to Pulau Langkawi in Jalan Sarawak .
Police officers led by Kangar OCPD Supt Muhammad Sabtu Osman controlled the crowd, informing them that there were several gas tanks in the shophouses in the villages.
Kuala Perlis assemblyman Bakar Saad said Kampung Puyu was entirely destroyed in the fire while parts of Kampung Seberang Tokpi were also burnt down.
He said the state government had set up a temporary operations centre in the Kuala Perlis Fishermen's Association office to register victims before they were sent to the SRK Kuala Perlis for food and temporary shelter.
Bakar said the victims were mostly fishermen and odd-job labourers.
State MCA chairman Datuk Chor Chee Heung said the party would assist the state government in providing aid to the victims.
Chor, who is also Deputy Home Minister said at the scene that those who had lost personal documents could lodge reports with the police, who had been directed to provide special attention.
Kangar CID chief ASP V. Raja said as of midnight no missing persons were reported.