KUANTAN (Sept 2): Although they were put to the test yesterday in the horrific fire which razed 32 buildings and is believed to have taken the lives of an elderly couple, the villagers of Sungai Lembing here have resolved to stay strong and rebuild their lives and homes.
When met by Bernama at the the hall at Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (C) Sungai Lembing which is serving as a temporary relief centre for the fire victims, Kong Swee Leng, 65, whose two-storey provision shop was destroyed in the blaze said she would rebuild again on the same site as the shophouse which comprised a store on the ground floor and living quarters on the top, represented the sole remembrance from her late husband.
“I have lived here for more than 50 years after getting married so it is of great sentimental value to me. I have nowhere else to go,” she explained, expressing the hope that the state government would give the affected villagers a grant to help them rebuild owing to the fact that the former tin mining village is a heritage area.
The razed buildings believed to be about 100-years-old, comprised 20 two-storey shophouses, 11 single-storey terrace houses and a library.
While waiting for her property to be rebuilt, Kong plans to stay at the homes of her children and relatives on a rotational basis, "so I don't have to inconvenience them for too long".
Chang Fam Meng @ Chen Fam Meng, 83, who has lived alone in the home left by her parents, is unfazed about rebuilding her life because she said residents in the village looked out for each other and were kind-hearted, with help coming from so many well-wishers apart from the government.
Another villager, Yong Siew Meng, 43, is planning to rebuild a replica of the family home which she just lost, explaining that the placement of the row of wooden shophouses and single-storey terrace houses in the middle of Sungai Lembing, was in itself a symbol of the identity of the village, and among the reasons why tourists visited the area.
Meanwhile, Pahang Fire and Rescue Department deputy director (fire and rescue operations) Ismail Abdul Ghani said the search for Ho Yok Fun, 74, suspected to have perished in the fire with his wife, had been temporarily stopped as no new lead had been found as at 3.15pm today.
“Until now, we have used four sniffer dogs from our K9 unit to search for the victim and to also help locate the source of the fire,” he said, adding that investigations had been handed over to the police to pursue a missing person line of inquiry.
In their search yesterday following the blaze, firemen found a charred body believed to be that of Ho's wife Chow Kim Mui, 70, because of a woman's accessories found with the remains.
The authorities are awaiting forensic investigations and DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) tests to be completed in this regard.
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