JOHOR BARU: What started out as a joyous Hari Raya Aidilfitri reunion for a family of 31 turned into a tragedy when two of their houses in Kampung Gajah Mati, Mersing, were engulfed in fire.
Kuih seller Zawiyah Ripin, 55, said that she was preparing some ketupat palas with her siblings during the fateful Wednesday evening.
“We wanted to distribute the ketupat palas to neighbours and those in need around the area in conjunction with Hari Raya.
“I was steaming the ketupat in the kitchen and left it for a few minutes as I waited for it to be cooked. Soon after, one of my siblings went to check on the dish and saw a huge fire had already started from the kitchen stove.
“The fire spread rapidly and violently throughout the house and to the house next door, which is my mother’s house,” said the single mother of five.
Zawiyah said that most of her family members, including her 85-year-old mother, were asleep during the incident.
“Me and my other family members who were awake went around the house to wake others up and drag them out of the two burning houses. Most of our neighbours were also not home to help as they had gone back to their hometowns for Raya.
“We had no time to save any of our belongings or even our cats which were still trapped inside the house,” she lamented, adding that she lost 12 of the more than 30 cats she owns.
“I am very grateful that everyone came out of the house alive with no physical injuries. However, I am also devastated that I did not get to rescue all my cats, who are also like family to me.”
Zawiyah said that she had never expected her first Hari Raya with her family after two years of being apart would end in such tragedy.
“I live alone in my house here while my mother lives in the house next to mine, also alone.”
It was earlier reported that 31 people had to seek shelter at a temporary relief centre after their homes were engulfed in fire at about 5pm on Wednesday.
Mersing Fire and Rescue Department chief Mohd Azhari Awi said the two houses were about 95% and 60% destroyed.
Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi said that Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar would be providing aid to the affected family through Yayasan Sultan Ibrahim.
“The Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration has turned into a test for the family affected by the fire at Kampung Gajah Mati, Mersing. They are faced with such a huge ordeal this Syawal.
“Insyaallah, Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar will be providing aid to help them to fix and rebuild their homes through Yayasan Sultan Ibrahim,” he said in a statement issued yesterday.
Onn Hafiz added that the Johor Religious Department will also provide aid to the victims to help them rebuild their houses.
“The victims will be placed in a rented house temporarily. I would also like to thank all of the agencies involved, as well as members of the public who have assisted the victims,” he said.