Nearly 40 houses and shops were destroyed and about 100 people left homeless when a fire ripped through the central Shan State ruby mining town of Monghsu on Wednesday morning, according to local sources.
Aung Myint Thein, a construction material store owner on Loi Hsangtao Hill, a major ruby mining site located about 18 miles east of the town, said 39 houses and shops including his store were destroyed in the blaze that broke out around 9am in the morning on 9 April.
“For now, we assume the fire was sparked from a wire short circuit at a shop,” he said. “As the fire engine in the town was out of service, we had to pump water using a communal generator to fight the fire, but it wasn’t enough.
“As we were concentrating on putting out the fire where it started, we couldn’t salvage our belongings – we tried to prevent the fire from spreading to other houses, but failed.”
He said that, in any case, the road up to the hill was too rough for a fire truck to climb.
The total cost of the damage from the blaze is as yet unknown, but Aung Myint Thein estimated the destruction at his shop alone at about 16 million kyat (US$16,000).
He said most shops in the areas were attached to houses. About 100 people were left homeless in the fire but there were no reported injuries in the incident. Those left homeless are now taking shelter at friends’ houses in the area, but are yet to receive any assistance from government authorities except for 230,000 kyat donated by the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings, which is a major investor in mining in the area.
Loi Hsangtao Hill, discovered to be rich in rubies some 20 years ago, has steadily grown in population as mining grew over the years, and is now home to thousands of miners and merchants.
Hundreds of homes and shops on the hill were destroyed in a similar fire incident seven years ago.