Located along Old Klang Road, KL, Hock Ann Estate has 60 years of history and 300 wooden houses. It was once highly populated by Chinese, but most of them had gradually moved out due to frequent occurrences of flood; and they have rented out their houses to Indonesian workers.
The fire that broke out on December 20, 2016, was among the most serious fire incidents in Hock Ann Estate. The flames had destroyed 17 houses and caused huge damage to those affected. Fortunately, there were no casualties.
Volunteer Lee Chee Chong from Desa Salak South was on his way to a community group’s meeting when he saw the fire at Hock Ann Estate and the arrival of fire engines. Right after the meeting, he called upon other volunteers to go to Hock Ann Estate to see how they could help the victims.
Around 10 pm, 14 volunteers arrived at the fire scene. After obtaining some information from the fire fighters and policemen, they divided themselves into two groups – one group headed for Sri Petaling Community Hall to provide emotional comfort to the victims, while another group remained at the site to collect information from the victims so that they could prepare for relief distribution.
Relief mission began with sincere care
On the morning of December 21, Tee Bee Choo from Charity Team gathered volunteers from the community, for manpower planning and to communicate consensus on material relief. She also arranged manpower to collect some clean clothes from a recycling centre for distribution to the victims.
At the fire scene, the burnt zinc roofs and roof beams were everywhere. Some of the victims returned to the charred remains of their homes, hoping to find some belongings from the ruins. Unfortunately, the fire had wiped out all their belongings.
The victims were mainly Indonesians, and they had to stay temporarily at their friends’ homes. Volunteers worked in four groups in order to get all the victims registered as soon as possible, besides providing comfort and care to the victims at the same time.
Ran for life
Eeng Rostiana, an Indonesian who works as a cleaner in Malaysia, had lived in Hock Ann Estate for a decade. She recalled, “That evening around 7 pm, I heard my sister yelling, then I saw thick smoke billowing from the wooden house next door. The fire was so ferocious and spread fast. We removed the gas tank from the kitchen to avoid explosion and ran for our lives.”
Eeng Rostiana only managed to grab the passports, her children’s birth certificates, a few clothes and her bag during the escape. Her sister, a food vendor who stayed with her, suffered a big loss as the flames destroyed the tools that had provided her a livelihood. Her children’s new school uniforms and shoes were also destroyed in the fire. Now, the sisters and their families have to stay with their friends for the time being.
Hussein, one of the victims, was seen searching aimlessly in the blackened and charred ruins. The destroyed house was his hostel, which he shared with his countrymen. They did not suffer substantial losses even though many of them were not at home during the fire.
Victim Tay Cheam Hock, a noodle seller, would be at his stall at 5 pm daily to prepare for his business. On the day of the fire, he rushed home immediately upon learning of the incident from his daughter. However, by the time he got home, he was heartbroken to find his home razed to the ground. He had lost all the money for his business, car insurance and house loan.
When volunteers brought him the clothes they collected from the recycling centre, they noticed that his legs were still shivering from the shock.
A secondary school student, Vinoth, whose house was safe from the blaze, arrived at the fire site with some clothes that his mother asked him to send to the victims. A retiree, Fong Tuck Chee, who had stayed in the area for nine years, offered his house for the volunteers to use as a relief and information centre, and where the victims could collect the used clothes and settle some post-disaster matters.
Tuck Chee said that he had wanted to help extinguish the fire but it was too ferocious so he gave up. He was respected by the locals as he always helped the foreign residents to repair their houses or to pay their utility bills. After the fire, he volunteered to guard the area against thefts and burglaries.
Providing material and emotional support
At 10 am on December 23, ten volunteers arrived at Sri Petaling Community Hall and distributed relief aid, which included relief cash, eco-blankets, toothpastes, toothbrushes, body soaps, laundry detergents, towels, “sarungs” and straw mats, to four affected Chinese households. They also conveyed Master Cheng Yen’s words of comfort to the victims.
Tay Cheam Hock appreciated the help from Tzu Chi, which brought him the warmth of humanity. He was also touched when his old classmates offered their help and support after learning about his situation. His wife, Lv Li Ying, was inspired to become a Tzu Chi donor in appreciation and to reciprocate the kindness received.
Soh Seow Leng, a victim in her late 60s, was still fearful when she recalled the fire incident, which added to her anxiety on top of the frequent occurrences of flood. Volunteers comforted her that she might get a better change after this incident.
Seow Leng’s daughter, Goh Yin Peng, expressed that Tzu Chi had not only provided the victims with material aid, but had also offered them emotional support by consoling them and talking to them. Such human touch and cycle of love were greatly appreciated.
That same evening, a relief distribution ceremony for foreign victims was held at the auditorium of SJK(C) Choong Wen. At the decorated auditorium, volunteers were well prepared to welcome the victims with respect. Out of the 35 registered households, 27 of them (52 persons) attended the ceremony.
Although it was drizzling, some victims arrived early at the venue. While waiting patiently for the distribution to commence, they were shown a video footage on Tzu Chi’s missions around the world in the Malay language. Volunteers also attended to some victims who could not find their names in the recipient list, to ensure the event ran smoothly.
Love is in the air
The ceremony started at 7.30 pm, with a prayer led by a victim, Uma. The emcee, Chan Suan Sim greeted all present before introducing Tzu Chi as a Buddhist organization that reaches out to others regardless of religions and ethnic groups.
A video footage, with the song, “We Are Family” playing in the background, showed the volunteers’ visit to the fire scene on December 20. Many were moved to tears.
Ucuk, an Indonesian who had worked in Malaysia for 22 years, had dealt with the demise of three of her children one after another; and now, her home of 18 years was destroyed in the fire. She, her husband and their four-year-old son could only seek shelter at her friend’s home temporarily. She was overwhelmed and broke down in tears when she heard the song, “We Are Family”.
After volunteers presented relief cash and bags of relief supplies to the victims, the emcee introduced the origins of Tzu Chi, bamboo bank and the eco-blankets. The recipients were encouraged to do their part to protect the Earth. Lastly, the emcee read aloud the letter from Master Cheng Yen, to convey the Master’s concern and blessings for the victims.
Warnianti was deeply touched after she received the aid from Tzu Chi. She shared that the clothes she was wearing were given to her by Tzu Chi volunteers; and now, she was given the eco-blanket. “I will think of Tzu Chi whenever I use the blanket,” she said. Warnianti had never thought that she would receive help from a charitable organization which offers help beyond the borders of race, religion and nationality.
In the ceremony, the victims were also encouraged to “do charity with small money”. Despite their poor situation after the fire, many donated their coins into the bamboo bank.
The ceremony ended with a sign language interpretation of the song, “We Are Family”, performed by volunteers; and singing of the song, “Love and Care for All”.
On December 25, volunteers invited those who did not attend the distribution ceremony to collect their relief aid at SJK(C) Choong Wen.
On the evening of December 20, 2016, a fire broke out at Hock Ann Estate and destroyed 17 houses. [Photograph by Ng Min Hui]
Tzu Chi volunteers were there to assess the situation on the night the fire occurred. [Photograph by Lee Chee Choon]
Eeng Rostiana lost most of her belongings, including her children’s new school uniforms and shoes, in the fire. [Photograph by Tam Yu Siong]
On the morning of December 21, 2016, volunteers returned to the scene to collect the necessary information for relief distribution. [Photograph by Ng Min Hui]
Volunteers distributed clothes to the victims at Fong Tuck Chee’s house. [Photograph by Ng Min Hui]
Tay Cheam Hock (left) appreciated the help from Tzu Chi. He could feel the human touch and genuine kindness from the volunteers. [Photograph by Yong Kar Chew]
Warnianti, who was wearing clothes given to her by Tzu Chi volunteers, was moved to receive the relief cash and material supplies. She said, “I will think of Tzu Chi whenever I use the blanket.” [Photograph by Yong Kar Chew]
As no one will be left behind, on December 25, 2016, volunteers invited those who did not attend the distribution ceremony to collect their relief aid at SJK(C) Choong Wen. [Photograph by Yong Kar Chew]