It was a sad night for the people of Bukit Mertajam when a Chinese temple over a century old was engulfed by fire, destroying its inner walls and many cultural relics.
The 150-year-old religious site, known as the Tua Pek Kong Temple, is located in the town centre, on Jalan Pasar.
No death or injury was reported as of early this morning. The cause of the fire is still unknown.
Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim said firefighters worked tirelessly to contain the fire to prevent further damage and loss of lives.
He said the interior of the temple was severely burned, along with many precious cultural relics.
"The people of Bukit Mertajam mourn tonight for the loss of our hometown’s cultural and heritage monument," Sim said last night in his Facebook account.
"Yet tonight, we also witnessed the altruistic spirit of solidarity among the people of Bukit Mertajam and our friends.
"Firefighters, voluntary fire brigades, police officers, people who were on the site, all worked together to put out the fire," he added.
Also known as the Hock Teik Cheng Sin Temple, the site is where the Bukit Mertajam town begun more than a century ago.
'We shall raise this temple again'
Sim said their ancestors had filled the low ground of the site with boulders from the hills, "one stone and one rock at a time."
"Step by step, with much perseverance, this much-honoured temple and our great town was built," he noted.
"If there is any consolation, while the interior was almost totally damaged, the outer walls remained standing - there is always hope in despair."
Sim believed that like the temple’s solid foundation and its strong outer walls, the spirit of Bukit Mertajam people is "indestructible."
"Like our ancestors, we shall raise this temple again," he vowed.
Sim said his team members were on site the whole evening to provide assistance to Hock Teik Cheng Sin chairperson Chong Hut Ho.
He has been in touch with Chong and will be coming to Bukit Mertajam today to visit the site.
Sim urged friends of Bukit Mertajam to join hands to rebuild the town's cultural and heritage monument once again.