Fire leaves Buddhist temple ruined

By JENNIFER O'BRIEN, SUN MEDIA, February 22, 2008

Building served as unofficial community centre for London's Cambodian community
London, UK
-- A blaze that sent worshippers fleeing out the back door of a Northeast London Buddhist temple has left many elderly Cambodians with no place to gather.

For seven years, the Khmer Buddhist Temple has served as a sort of community centre for many Cambodians who arrived in the 1980s but until 2001 would gather to worship in a rented two-bedroom apartment.

“It is very important to the elders. It is more than just a temple, it is where they go,” said Born Heng, a Cambodian Londoner who was “so sad” to hear news of the $100,000 fire

Firefighters say the blaze started from “unattended worship materials” in front of the temple, a former home at 2489 Fanshawe Park Road.

Flames quickly engulfed the shrine and porch roof in front of the temple, then spread into the attic and into the front room, where people were worshipping Thursday night.

“It could have collapsed on them. But people saw the flames and ran out in time,” said Saroeuth Nath, president of the temple.

Nath said people often leave incense and light candles in a designated spot in front of the temple’s two-metre tall Buddha, but that he did not know what happened to trigger the fire.

Today, the once-gold and magnificent statue brought over from Southeast Asia last summer is charred black. Inside, vibrant rugs and cushions scattered on the temple floor are sopping wet and covered in charred pieces of the attic.

“I am so sad,” said Nath. “I couldn’t sleep last night.”