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USA — Buddhist temple burns in northwest Fort Worth

Wednesday 26 August 2009

Langues :

Aug. 25, 2009

FORT WORTH — Oat Souvanna stood heartbroken Tuesday as he stared at the ruins of the Wat Lao Thepnimith temple complex.

"It took years for us to build, and now it’s gone," said Souvanna, of Saginaw. "But we will rebuild. We, the people, will build it again."

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Firefighters work to get a fire under control Tuesday morning at a Buddhist temple in northwest Fort Worth.

A handful of other temple members nodded in agreement as they sat and watched fire investigators sift through debris.

Firefighters were summoned about 11:30 p.m. Monday to a fire at the Buddhist temple, at 7105 Marvin Brown St. in northwest Fort Worth. The flames could be seen for miles.

An 18-foot-tall metal statue of Buddha and dozens of smaller statues melted. The damage was estimated at $350,000, a fire official said Tuesday. No one was injured.

As of Tuesday afternoon, investigators had not determined the cause of the fire.

Monk Kommana Vongphakdy said Tuesday that he was watching television late Monday when he heard a noise at the temple.

"I thought someone hit my car," Vongphakdy said. "I went outside and I saw a red light. Then I looked and I saw the fire."

11-year labor of love

For 23 years, the complex has been a spiritual and cultural center for the estimated 11,000 Lao-American Buddhists in Fort Worth and Saginaw, believed to be the largest concentration in Metroplex.

Three buildings are on the campus. The one that burned — the temple — was considered a sacred place where prayers, meditation and Buddhist rituals were conducted.

Construction was "my idea . . . and people came and helped me," Vongphakdy said about 2:30 a.m. as he watched the fire.

The concrete building with the tin roof had been an 11-year labor of love. Its facade was made of thousands of teardrop-shaped tiles painted gold. Pieces of colored glass and polished mirrors also adorned the outside.

All the pieces were applied by the monks and the people they serve, said Joe Dietrich, a lay member of the temple who served as its spokesman early Tuesday.

The complex has security cameras, and the temple hadn’t experienced any crime that Dietrich could recall.

Khamsy Pakdimounivong of Watauga said it could take five years to rebuild.

"It will be tough to get donations in these times," Pakdimounivong said Tuesday. "But we’re ready to start working."



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