Police suspect that the massive fire that destroyed 32 houses at Khada settlement of Palata-1 in Kalikot district on December 24 was caused due to the carelessness of drunken revellers.
Bishnu Kanta Pyakurel, the ward secretary of Palata-1, was caught on Saturday for interrogation. Police say they are looking into the suspected involvement of five others, including the ward chairman, in the incident. Pyakurel has been detained at the District Police Office, Manma for further probe.
The fire that broke out at the house of Nabin Neupane destroyed the houses in the clustered settlement, displacing as many as 285 people including 111 children.
According to a police assessment, property worth around Rs30 million was destroyed in the incident. The fire victims have been taking shelter in temporary huts in miserable conditions.
Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Binod Sharma said a group of five persons had consumed alcohol till late night and thrown cigarette stubs carelessly on the thatched roof.
According to police, Pyakurel, ward Chairman Man Bahadur Bhandari, two local teachers and a ward office employee organised the gathering where they consumed alcohol and the meat of a goat that was slaughtered while inaugurating a local water supply scheme that day.
After the inferno, Pyakurel claimed that Rs400,000, which he had brought in for distributing the social security allowance, was also destroyed in the fire. According to DSP Sharma, the fire victims complained of bias as Pyakurel distributed relief materials. Police even charged Pyakurel with exaggerating the data on the damage.
“As per the information received from the local people, the ward secretary, ward chairman and employees and teachers were to blame for the fire. A detailed investigation is under way,” said Sharma. The DSP added that the process to suspend head constable Yagya Bahadur Khadka, in charge of the Thirpu Police Post, has begun as he presented a fake damage report under pressure from the people’s representatives.