The Irrawaddy

Magwe Fire Leaves 900 Locals Homeless

The aftermath of a Saturday night fire in Magwe Region's Yesagyo Township.

YANGON — A large fire that broke out in a Magwe Region village in Myanmar’s dry zone on Saturday night burned more that 160 houses to the ground and left 900 people homeless, according to local sources.

The fire started at about 8:30 p.m. in Thit Gyi Taw village in Magwe’s Yesagyo Township and razed167 houses before it was extinguished at 2:30 a.m. on Sunday. No casualties have been reported.

U Kyaw Thura, a village administrator, told The Irrawaddy by phone that the fire started in the kitchen of a private home and quickly spread through the village as most houses in the area are made of bamboo and thatch.

He said the blaze destroyed 167 houses and displaced 900 people, including 37 students who will sit the matriculation exams starting Wednesday.

“It was so quick because the houses are close together, and also there was a strong wind,” the administrator said.

He said food and other supplies were being provided to the victims by the government and charity groups, but added that it would take some time to rebuild the destroyed houses.

Magwe is one of the most vulnerable regions to fire in Myanmar because of its hot and dry conditions.

On Feb. 26 a fire in Su Tat Gyi village, in Magwe’s Myothit Township, destroyed 31 houses and displaced 145 people, according to the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement. The ministry said it provided the victims with about 100,000 kyats ($75) each to help them rebuild their homes along with rice and other supplies.

U Tin Thaung, a Magwe Regional lawmaker representing Yesagyo, said the students will be supplied with books and accommodations by the regional government so they can study for their exams.

“Because it [Thit Gyi Taw] is located in the northernmost part of the township, it is far from the center, including the fire stations. Besides that, it also had a water shortage problem,” U Tin Thaung said.

He said the nearest fire station was 20 minutes away and that the township’s main fire station was at least a half-hour drive.

“When the hot season comes, there is a greater risk of fire. We can’t say it wouldn’t happen, but if there was a fire station nearby it would reduce the loss,” the lawmaker said. “The loss was worse because there is no fire station nearby.”

U Tin Thaung said there were only three fire stations in his constituency and that he had asked Parliament for more but was turned town on the grounds that the region could not afford it.

“I hope the fire now proves the need,” he said.