Jigmi Wangdi

The smell of charred wood still hung in the air, creating a haunting backdrop to the bleak scene. Amidst the desolation lay the burnt remnants of metal roofing, blankets, mattresses, utensils, and pots, scattered across a vast expanse of ash.

Under the relentless blaze of the sun, it felt as though the very ground beneath their feet still smouldered. This was the aftermath of a devastating fire accident that happened at Changidaphu on September 12, reducing 23 homes to ashes.

Residents who once called these houses home arrived the following day in a desperate bid to salvage whatever they could. Their efforts, however, proved mostly futile, as the flames had devoured possessions of any value. Neighbours and relatives rallied, assisting in clearing the charred debris, with the hope of selling the salvageable metal roofing for scrap.

Among the unfortunate residents was Prasad Kumar Tamang, who was in Babesa when he received the grim news of the inferno’s outbreak.

“By the time I arrived, the fire had already consumed my house,” he said, adding that he was unable to rescue even his daughter’s slippers, let alone other cherished belongings.

Despite the loss, Prasad Kumar said that he was relieved that the fire had spared lives and resulted in no casualties.

“Homes can be rebuilt in time,” he said, “but nothing can replace a lost life.”

Currently, he and his family have found temporary shelter at Changzamtog School, where Prasad receives support from Thimphu Thromde, including assistance in securing new accommodation.

Prasad Kumar thanks His Majesty’s kidu and the organisations that rushed to aid with clothing and supplies.

“Each household received a kidu of Nu 15,000 from His Majesty. We are all very grateful,” he said.

Nobin Rai painted a sombre picture of their plight.

“My family members were here when the incident happened. My father-in-law is still grappling with the trauma,” he said.

Amidst this hardship, the resilient sense of community that the Thromde workers had forged was evident. Neighbours offered refreshments and tea to those sifting through the wreckage.

“We must support each other in any way possible,” a resident remarked with a warm smile.

For most families caught in the fire’s merciless path, the loss was total. Some were left with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

“Many here had their savings in cash. All of it is now gone,” a resident said.

In a heartening response to the crisis, Thimphu Thromde, with support from the Office of Gyalpoi Zimpon and various organisations, as well as local schools, swiftly stepped in. They provided essential housing, utensils, stationery, and bus services to all the affected families.

The affected families were relocated to newly constructed low-income housing units, offering a glimmer of hope amid the ashes of their former lives.