ECONOMYNEXT – Residents blamed drug addicts for fire that gutted at least 60 houses in suburb area of Sri Lanka capital on Tuesday despite dozens of fire trucks were deployed to control the fire spreading, area residents and officials said.
The fire in Kajimawatta slum area with 300 mostly wooden houses is the worst disaster in the last three years, the residents said.
“There was a house where usually drug addicts use. That house has been used by several drug addicts and the fire started from this house,” a resident at Kajimawatta told EconomyNext.
Several other residents in the area also conformed that the fire was initially started at a house where drug addicts frequently met everyday.
“When I came home, it had turned into ashes. I could not find anything from my house including television,” M D Quitus, a 58 year mason said.
Residents said it was the fourth time the fire had destroyed parts of their houses in a 4 acre land where nearly 300 slum houses are built mostly without proper land ownership.
Gravel roads within the slum were filled with water after the residents broke the some of the common water supply taps to douse the fire. Some residents were trying to take their belongings out of the ash after searching for whatever left following the fire.
“Within two hours, all houses were burnt. This because all these houses are connected via wooden walls. People could not act fast because some drug addicts at the house where the fore started just left the house without doing anything,” another resident said asking not to be named.
The authorities deployed at least 12 fire trucks, they could only control the fire after 2 hours.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe instructed the President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake to take steps to provide immediate relief to all the residents affected by the fire.
The President’s media divisions said that he had instructed presidential s secretary to intervene immediately and direct the Colombo government agent, Tri Forces Commanders, the Fire Brigade, the Health Department, the Urban Development Authority and all other relevant government agencies to look into the needs of the people who were residing in the apartment complex and provide them the required facilities immediately.
“Accordingly, all relevant departments have already taken steps to provide the maximum intervention required to douse the fire and provide all other necessary facilities promptly,” the president’s media said.
“The President has further stated that special attention should be provided to attend to the needs of mothers, women and children who are affected by this tragedy.”
Area residents, however, said they were still waiting for the government’s relief.
The slum area has been vulnerable to fire because of compacted houses in narrow area. (Colombo/Sept28/2022