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Fire damages iconic Canadian gurdwara

world Updated: Aug 28, 2016 00:05 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times
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The Gurdwara Sahib in Vancouver is North America’s most historic gurdwara. (Facebook page of Khalsa Diwan Society Vancouver)

North America’s most historic gurdwara suffered considerable damage due to a fire that erupted within its premises early on Friday.

The Gurdwara Sahib in Vancouver is the successor to the first-ever Sikh temple in the country, and possibly North America, which was constructed in 1908. The new building, that replaced the original temple in 1970, was damaged in the fire that appears to have started on its second floor.

Kashmir Singh Dhaliwal, general secretary of the Khalsa Diwan Society that runs the gurdwara, told the Hindustan Times that the “temple will be closed for at least two months”.

Dale Booth, Assistant Chief of the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services said the cause of the conflagration was “still being investigated.” The fire started at around 2 am and there were no reports of injuries, but Booth said it took “a couple of hours” to bring it under control because of the design of the building, as its cement-style structure retained heat.

Much history is attached to this gurdwara, which is also known as the Ross Street Gurdwara due to its location. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Vancouver during his Canada trip in April 2015, this gurdwara figured on the schedule. He visited it along with then Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Dhaliwal said religious programmes will continue at the location but will move to a smaller adjacent building. “We have another facility on other side, and we are planning to put tents in the parking lot,” he said.

There’s been extensive fire and water damage to the main building, one that was renovated just last year. The cause will be established once the fire department completes its investigation. “We don’t know; there may have been an electric spark somewhere,” Dhaliwal said.