Fire destroys part of water village

Hot and dangerous: Firemen and volunteers trying to control the blaze at Kampung Pangkalan in Kunak.

KUNAK- Hundreds of stilt houses were gutted in an area where six suspected Sulu terrorists were arrested last Wednesday.

About 150 houses and shops were destroyed in the 1.30am fire yesterday at the Kampung Pangkalan settlement of the mainly Bajau-Suluk community.

The incident left about 500 people from 89 families homeless.

The fire is believed to have been triggered by an electrical short-circuit in one of the houses.

Kunak police chief Deputy Supt Razali Mahmud said authorities were checking whether a short-circuit had started the fire.

He added that a power failure occurred in Kunak earlier on Saturday evening.

"There were many illegal electric connections in the settlement and the fire could have been triggered when power was restored," he said.

DSP Razali said no foul play was suspected at this point, but the police were waiting for a full report from the state Fire Department.

No one was hurt in the fire, which was extinguished by 8am.

Kunak Fire and Rescue Department chief Jaafar Salleh said his men were assisted by personnel from the Tawau fire station and Civil Defence Department, Rela, Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd and the state Water Works Department.

"We received a report about the fire at 1.48am," he said.

It was earlier reported that six suspected Sulu terrorists were detained in a special operation in the same area on Wednesday.

Among those detained were two corporals from the police and the army as well as an illegal immigrant.

They were detained on suspicion of links to the Sulu group that occupied Kampung Tanduo in February last year.

Kunak assemblyman Datuk Nilwan Kabang said the 500 victims were being housed at the Kunak community hall.

He added that only part of the settlement was affected by the fire.

Nilwan said the village settlement first sprouted in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when many southern Filipinos fled the civil war in their country.