Two days had passed since the fire burned down two of our neighbour’s houses. Everything seems very surreal now but every time I opened the front door of Ecoteer House, the remains of the houses reminded me of what had happened just two nights ago.
I was lying on the floor with my laptop, checking information of our new volunteer with Natalie and Jill. When I decided to go to sleep, I heard the sound of fireworks. I just questioned casually whether or not there was a firework celebration at Perhentian Island. I walked to the backdoor and I was shocked to see our neighbour’s house in flame while Nat was looking at it from the front door. We shouted for Jill and Jill started switching off all the lights. I shouted for Kak Ani, my neighbour, to inform her about the fire.
Before I realised, both Jill and Nat were out of the house. I quickly grabbed my belongings and I couldn’t find my laptop anywhere. I shouted for Jill and she tried to show me where it was. It was dark in the house where I didn’t even know where she meant but eventually I found it. I heard my neighbour shouted ‘Seh Ling, get out of the house first, get out first!!!’ I was in shorts when I raced out from the house. I could feel the heat and the fire was consuming the house in a fast rate. In my mind, I was thinking if the two trees outside of our house were caught in fire, it was just a matter of time our house would be on fire too.
I didn’t really know what to do. I called the policeman but nobody picked up. I called the marine park personnel and it went to the voicemail. I called a school teacher and he said he was nearby. A few villagers started spraying water using hose but the fire was out of control. I managed to call Dan and informed him what had happened. He said we had a fire extinguisher in the house so I ran back in to grab it and gave it to a guy to use it. Nat, Jill and I decided to leave the scene as there was nothing much we could do.
We gathered at the end of the village at Pok Din’s house. I decided to go back as I was really worried about Afiq, the boy who lived in the house in fire. When I saw the fire, I did hear someone screaming ‘Tolong! Tolong!’ and I really prayed it wasn’t Afiq. Jill made up her mind to go back too as she felt that she needed to do something, not just wait. After I went back, I didn’t see Afiq but a villager told me he was saved out of the house. I knew there was nothing we could do to save the house but I volunteered to get more buckets for the guys. I saw my neighbour’s husband, Abang Sabri while I grabbed a bucket and he warned me not to go near. He instead took the bucket from me and helped out.
When I went back to Jill, I could not find her, instead I bumped into Nat who told me Jill said something but she did not know what. We all ended up searching for each other and luckily we found each other. I told them strictly that we were supposed to follow the emergency protocol whenever there is a fire and stick to it. Regardless of how much I disagree with Jill trying to help to put out the fire, I was touched when Jill said she had to do something after seeing me running into our house which was quite close to the fire and not doing anything. However, I still think we all should not try to put out a fire because we are not trained.
The fire was under control after the firemen came but it took them more than an hour later to reach as they came from mainland. It was almost 1am when they put out the fire. I called my Mum to tell her the situation. She said luckily there was a distance between Ecoteer House and the house on fire. Besides, we had two trees in between and big trees do not get burned up easily. It did not occur to me until later that Shahrul’s and Diana’s house was just beside Afiq’s house. Nat and I went and realised their house was burned down too. Nat and I managed to meet up Afiq’s and Shahrul’s families and it was a relief to know everyone was safe even though I can see their sad faces because of the loss. Personally the most important thing is everyone was safe. Any other things can be replaced.
It was past 3am when I went to bed in sweat as the electric and water was cut off. I was so tired that it did not take long to fall asleep. The vibration from my phone woke me up at 7am something. It was Pavin, asking me if we were alright. Good thing that he called as Jill and I had to take boat out at 8am to pick our new volunteer up. I felt so disoriented from lack of sleep and after what had happened. When I stepped out of the house, there were a few villagers checking out the remains and the owners of the house searching through the remains for any valuable things.
The fire had totally destroyed two houses and all their valuable belongings. In my heart, I told myself I am going to help ALL I can in any way. I am glad a lot of people feel the same way and the government agreed to build them a new house. Hopefully they will be back in their new home soon! Ecoteer will be helping them to raise fund and collect household items through donation.
We really appreciate if anyone wants to donate or help in any way!