IFRC

Brunei Red Crescent in action during water village fires

Published: 26 August 2002 0:00 CET

Omar Valdimarsson in Bangkok

Volunteers from the Brunei Darussalam Red Crescent were among the first on the scene when two separate fires broke out in two water villages as revellers took part in the closing ceremonies of a royal birthday celebration on Monday 19 August. No deaths or major injuries were reported in the two fires which broke out within six hours of each other, but at at least 45 homes were destroyed in the fires.

Staffed entirely by volunteers, the Brunei Red Crescent has been accepting donations in kind for the residents of the two villages. "We do not want to receive perishable foodstuffs, nor gifts of money," says Ismail Kassim, Secretary-General of the Brunei Darussalam Red Crescent Society. People who lost their possessions in the fire can come and receive assistance at the relief centre opened in the Red Crescent's headquarters and training centre in Bandar Seri Bagawan, Brunei's capital. "Our main responsibility is to help our local communities when disasters strike," says Ismail Kassam. "The response from the public has been very encouraging." In one of the burned villages, Kompung Lorong Sikuna 'B', a primary school and a government guesthouse were among the houses which burned down. Fortunately, the two hundred primary school children whose school was burned down in the fires will be able to go back to school as alternative arrangements were made by the Ministry of Education.

Water taxis were used to ferry residents of the burning villages and the few personal possessions they could salvage from the fire. Brunei's capital has some 24 water villages – picturesque and well-maintained houses on stilts – close to the city centre on the north-east coast of Borneo.

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