Two people were killed and hundreds were left homeless when a massive fire spread across a Christian-dominated village in Tirap district of India’s Arunachal Pradesh state on March 18.
“The victims have been identified as a bedridden 65-year-old man and a four-year-old girl who could not move out from their homes as the fire burned down their houses,” said Father Felix Antony, public relations officer of Miao Diocese that covers the area.
Bishop George Pallipparambil of Miao has appealed for prayers and assistance to help victims in Longliang village in the northeastern state bordering China.
Father Antony told UCA News that 136 houses were reduced to ashes, leaving some 500 people homeless, most of them Catholics.
“The exact cause of the fire is not known. It lasted for nearly two hours, destroying everything the poor people had earned in their entire life,” the priest said.
He said local people suspect more casualties will be found when the area is cleared.
Sethok Thinyan, a local youth leader, said there was nothing left of the houses that caught fire as people did not get time to remove their valuables. The houses are made of bamboo with thatched roofs and are close to one another.
“A small spark aided by the usual strong wind can spell doom for the whole village. The fire tender could not arrive due to the remoteness of the village. The fire has also taken away the food grains saved for the rest of the year,” Thinyan said.
“The fire victims have now taken shelter in houses of their neighbors that were not affected.”
The victims need basic amenities like utensils, tents for temporary accommodation, food and clothing among other things.
Bishop Pallipparambil said he is “deeply saddened to know the magnitude of the loss and pain. I appeal to everyone to come forward to help the people of Longliang in whatever way you can.”
The Salesian bishop also urged the diocesan social service wing to help people with immediate relief materials. He also requested priests and women religious in the area to support the affected “in this hour of deep crisis.”
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