Lakhisarai/Darbhanga, Apr 25: Eighteen people, including seven children and four women, died and about 2,500 houses were destroyed since Sunday in various incidents of fire in Bihar with heat wave playing its part, officials said.
Fire claimed five people in Saran, four in Lakhisarai, three in Darbhanga, two in Gopalganj districts and one each in Muzaffarpur, East Champaran, Bhojpur and Vaishali districts, said an official of the state disaster management department.
"In Lakhisarai's Pokhrama village, four children of a family were burnt alive after fire broke out in a thatched house. The four children were sleeping in a room when fire broke out," a district official said on Monday.
In Saran, three women were burnt alive in a fire; a child and an old man died in separate fire incidents in the same district.
According to reports reaching here, fire incidents wreaked havoc across the state on Sunday.
Over 1000 houses were gutted in Darbhanga, 800 in Saran, 400 in Vaishali, 160 in Gopalganj, 150 in East Champaran, 200 in West Champaran, 100 in Samastipur, and dozens in Madhubani, Sitamarhi and Muzaffarpur districts.
"Hundreds of families have become homeless and been forced to take shelter under trees or temporary tent of polythene and old clothes," officials said.
Last week 12 people, including five children and four women, were burnt alive as a fire swept a row of houses, including one hosting a marriage party, in Harinagar village in Aurangabad district.
The state government has announced a compensation of Rs.4 lakh to the kin of each victim.
Fire incidents are common during the hot summer months in rural Bihar, where people still live in thatched houses.
Officials said fire incidents have been on the rise due to heat wave with temperatures as high as 42 to 43.5 degrees Celsius over the last 10 days.
Some people in villages in Bagaha in West Champaran district have started a campaign against lighting firewood or kerosene stoves to cook food after 9 a.m. in order to minimise the chance of fires, a district official said.
According to latest data compiled by the state disaster management department, nearly 500 cases of fire were reported in Bihar as of Friday; these incidents affected 5,742 families, left 23 people dead and seven people injured.