“I could see the flames… I was scared…I was shocked…”
Last night’s fire at Mae La Refugee Camp destroyed 19 houses and another 31 were dismantled to stop the flames spreading.
Thai ambulances and fire trucks from surrounding villages attended the fire at the Mae La Refugee Camp that is located on the Thai Burma Border in Thailand’s Tak Province.
Saw Honest, the Mae La camp leader spoke to Karen News about the fire.
“According to our inquiry, the fire was caused by a candle from a house in section 4 [of Zone B] where a mother of a young baby fell asleep with the light on [candle] and set fire to her house. We found out that 19 houses were destroyed by the fire while another 31 houses were dismantled to prevent the fire spreading.”
Camp officials said that last night’s fire had affected 286 people and that they are urgently in need of assistance such as food, household utensils, blankets and clothing.
A Karen News reporter, at the camp spoke to a camp resident who helped fight the fire.
“People rushed to help. We threw water and sand on the burning houses,” said the young refugee who suffered cuts and brusies.
The refugee said it was a relief to see the Thai water trucks turn up.
“It was lucky they [Thai villages] sent three as the first one soon ran out of water. It was total chaos, people ran everywhere to get away [from the fire].”
A long time Mae La resident told Karen News that this time flames were closer to her home than in previous fires at the refugee camp.
“I could see the flames. I was scared. I was shocked.”
The resident said that despite the fire been about 500 meters from her home she was terrified.
“It was a nightmare, our house was 500m away, I was scared. I can’t imagine what would be like close up.”
Camp residents told Karen News that camp officials warned people close to the fire to evacuate on public loudspeakers and by shouting.
A resident told Karen News that people living close to the fire panicked.
“They didn’t know which way to run. There was a lot of screaming. Most people had been asleep and were grabbing their kids and just trying to get away from the flames.”
Residents were grateful to see a Thai ambulance made available to help people affected by the fire.
Karen News are led to believe that Thai police and army are investigating a number of leads to what caused the fire, including sparks from nearby forest fires and allegations that a candle had set fire to a mosquito net while residents slept.
If you want to make a donation to help the victims of the fire go to the website of The Border Consortium or click on this link http://theborderconsortium.org/donate/donate.htm