2 families displaced as fire engulfs Assam type house in Laban

Shillong Jan 22: Two houses were gutted and 12 persons including a month infant were displaced today when a fire engulfed their dwelling at Laban. Repeated frantic calls to the fire services number including efforst from the local police station bank opposite bore fruit only about 40 minutes later.

By the time two fire tenders arrived the scene, the houses were gutted leaving the two families homeless and deeply traumatised. Gauri Das and Sujata Thapa lost all their possessions in the fire that gutted their Assam-type rented house near Laban Bengalee Girls’ Higher Secondary School, a few yards from Laban police station, on Sunday evening.

Gauri Das and Sujata Thapa are now trying to figure out a way to cope with the loss even as well-wishers from the neighbourhood reached in scores to console them in their moment of agony. But the grief was weighing on them and it was palpable.

Das noticed the fire, which could possibly be attributed to a short circuit, when she was busy attending to guests on the otherwise quiet Sunday evening. Thapa and her family members were in the church. “We ran out of the house. We could not save anything. There was a laptop and some cash too. Everything is gone,” Das said and added that the shawl she was wrapping herself with belonged to her daughter.

Thapa was sitting nearby. Her sunken eyes said it all. She choked as she talked about the fire. She was a tenant in the house for the last three years and stayed with her mother and daughter.

Das lived with her husband, Bipul Das, who is a former employee of Survey of India. Her younger daughter was also with her. They shifted to the house five years ago after his retirement. Both the families are planning to take shelter in their relatives’ houses till they find a house.

House owner Bijoya Wahlang lost for words at the sudden fire that almost engulfed her house located adjacently had only to thank God for having spared precious lives. Visibly distraught at the incident, she is now wondering how to make both ends meet. “This is my only source of income and they are very good tenants. I’m so broken at how to help them and what do I do now onwards,” Wahlang said, adding, “Today, one family will stay with their relatives and the other will stay with me here. We’ll manage somehow.”

The little silver lining however came from the Red Cross Society which upon being alerted by a concerned citizen rushed to the spot and after a quick inspection brought in relief materials for both the affected households.

Volunteers of the Red Cross helped with twelve items which included blankets, utensils, buckets, tarpaulins and other utility items to help them to move on at least for the time being before effective relief from the government and other sources come.

Police are awaiting for the fire and emergency services team to conduct an inquiry tomorrow to ascertain the cause of the fire before proceeding further on the legal aspects of the incident, a senior police officer informed. EOM

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