Monks battle Twante market blaze

Sep 11, 2008 (DVB), Around 100 local monks rushed to the scene of a fire raging at Myoma market in Twante in Rangoon division on Tuesday night, but were forbidden by police from helping extinguish the blaze.

An eyewitness said shops selling dry goods, textiles, bananas, coconuts and electrical goods as well as ironmongers' and goldsmiths' stores all went up in flames.

"When we got there, the fire engines and local authorities hadn't arrived yet. As the fire raged, about 100 monks from Shweletkhoke and Dhamalingaya came down and extinguished the fire with water from a nearby drainage canal," the witness said.

"The police force arrived and stopped all the people who were bringing water buckets to help extinguish the fire. Only the monks challenged them," he said.

"The fire wasn't burning too fiercely at first – if there had been water ready, the flames could have been put out in half an hour."

Despite the restrictions, the witness said the monks continued to help.

"The monks were not allowed to extinguish the fire, but it was raging so hard that they could not just stand by and watch," he said.

"They were acting on impulse, whether it was allowed or not."

The fire broke out at 10.30pm and was extinguished at around midnight.

Although two fire engines arrived on the scene, they were unable to tackle the blaze as they did not have any water.

Some shopkeepers were hurt by falling debris when they attempted to retrieve goods from their shops.

Two thirds of the shops in the market were destroyed, causing an estimated 100 million kyat in damage, according to the authorities.

State media reported that more than 1000 people were left homeless by fires in August, but there was no mention of Tuesday's fire.

Reporting by Shwe Aung

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