SAPTARI, APR 17 – While many people across the nation celebrated the Nepali New Year 2072 (April 14) with much fanfare, the victims of a fire that ravaged Rampura Malhaniya-5 in the district seemed to have lost all hope of returning to their normal lives anytime soon.
More than 160 houses were destroyed in the fire that had engulfed the entire settlement within minutes on April 9. There were no human casualties, but according to initial estimates, properties worth Rs 20 million were destroyed and 65 families were rendered homeless in the incident.
With a barrage of tears falling down her wrinkled cheeks, Bechani Chaudhary, 60, one of the victims of the devastating fire, was found eating rice with salt on Tuesday afternoon.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that one day I would have to bear witness to such a disaster,” she said in a sad tone.
Siruwa festival is celebrated with much fanfare and gusto in the Terai plains during the Nepali New Year. This year, however, many people of the fire-ravaged VDC did not even realise that the festival had arrived as they were dealing with the pain of their respective losses in the aftermath of the fire. Instead of celebrating, the fire victim s were found busy sharing their predicament and consoling one another.
Remembering the good times they had celebrating the festival last year, Leela Devi Yadav, another victim of the fire, said that the disaster that struck their village just few days ahead of the festival also turned all their enthusiasm and hope into ashes.
“We had been making necessary preparations for the festival for the past few month, with plans to buy new pair of clothes to the children and enjoy various delicacies during the festivities. Instead, many of us are now homeless, left with clothes we were wearing when the fire ravaged the village in the name of property and very less to eat,” Leela complained.
Many fire victim s of the village have been compelled to survive the blistering midday heat without a roof over their heads and have trouble sleeping during the equally treacherous mosquito-infested nights as the tents provided by the District Development Committee have torn apart.
They further complained that the initiative taken by the District Public Health Office (DPHO) to spray mosquito repellents has proved to be a futile effort.
Likewise, the victim’s have also been deprived of basic necessities such as drinking water and toilets.
“As we have been compelled to sleep on the ground, the threat of falling victim to snake bites is very real,” said victim Ramudevi Yadav.