Hundreds Homeless after Blaze Rips Through Namhsan Town

By Zarni Mann 5 February 2016

MANDALAY — A massive fire lasting over 12 hours broke out in Northern Shan State’s Namhsan town on Thursday, leaving hundreds homeless before the blaze was finally brought under control early Friday morning.

Although the cause of the fire is unknown, it reportedly began in a storage garage containing green tea leaves in Namhsan’s Mingalar quarter on Thursday afternoon. It proceeded to tear through Mingalar, and another quarter, Myolae, burning both completely.

“Over two hundred homes were burned. It’s about half of the town, as Namhsan has about 400 homes,” said Aung Khin, chairman of the town’s National League for Democracy (NLD) office.

It is not yet known if there were any fatalities. Displaced persons are currently taking shelter at a Namhsan monastery, and the town’s electricity and telecommunications infrastructure is still down.

“The fire got under control at 1 am as it neared the town hall,” Aung Khin added.

Local authorities said fire engines from the neighboring townships of Namtu, Kyaukme, Hsipaw and Lashio came to help extinguish the fire, however narrow streets and difficulty accessing the town’s water supply allowed the fire to spread, resulting in huge losses.

“Sadly, most of the homes did not have enough water as we didn’t receive water distribution from the municipality on Thursday,” said Maung Kyaw, a local administration officer in Namhsan, who added that fire engines could not fit down many of Namhsan’s roads.

The blaze is the largest since the town suffered another fire in November 2011, which razed 47 homes and displaced about 100 people.

Aung Khin said the town’s residents are currently assisting one another with the rescue and relocation of the displaced. According to locals, the temporary shelters set up for the victims of the fire are in need of clothing, blankets, clean water and basic medicine.