Disaster: Six years after a fire incident gutted 12 shops in Wamrong, Trashigang, the town has been restored with stronger structures and improved fire safety measures.

The town tshogpa, Sonam Wangchuk, said that the reconstruction for eight houses was completed in November 2014. “The shopkeepers began moving into their new houses by 2015.”

He said that there are about nine to 10 fire hydrants in town to contain fire if it ever breaks out.

The tshogpa also said all house owners maintained a safe distance of one metre between their structures to prevent fire from spreading amongst the buildings.

A shopkeeper, Dechen Peldon, who lost her home to the fire, said with concrete buildings, they feel safer now.

She also said people are also now more cautious and careful with fire because of the past experience.

Until the completion of the reconstruction, the shopkeepers operated from temporary shelters built by the office of the Gyalpoi Zimpoen by the roadside opposite to their existing structures.

The fire victims were granted land kidu though the shops were standing on  government land. They also received timber as kidu at a subsidised rate.

But the town, however, is still vulnerable to fire because of the presence of huts below the new structures.

There are around 20 bamboo and wooden huts perched on the slope below the Trashigang-Samdrupjongkhar highway. “There is still danger of the town going up in flames if one of these huts catches fire,” Sonam Wangchuk said.

The tshogpa said that the government should now focus on facilitating and planning safer houses for the temporary sheds to prevent a major fire.

The town residents also expressed concern about the lack of roadside drainage in its parking area, on which the temporary shelters were built.

Dechen Peldon said that the lack of roadside drainage has left the rainwater to seep into the ground.

“The seepage of rainwater can lead to landslides, which could again affect the structures,” Dechen Peldon said.

Meanwhile, four affected shop owners are yet to construct their houses.

Tshogpa Sonam Wangchuk said the house owners could not afford to build their houses since they all are financially disadvantaged. “One of the landowners is a widow. The other plot belongs to a monk who could not afford to construct the first floor to avail housing loan from the banks. The third landowner has no money to construct a house.”

He said the fourth owner could not construct the house since his plot is adjoined with the third landowner and they have to start the construction together.

One of the four landowners who could not construct a house, Karmo, is now living with her daughter in Phuentsholing after she had to vacate the temporary shelter. The temporary shelter was brought down after the concrete buildings were completed. “Since I am a widow and have children to raise, I could not construct the house,” she said. “I don’t have anyone to support and could not avail a housing loan.”

Tempa Wangdi