Subhas gutted in HCMC (fire at 76 Hai Ba Trung, 1.7.2022)

July 1st, Ho Chi Minh City – 76 Hai Ba Trung – After a fire that started in an picture framing shop*, a large part of the house of where former Indian National Congress leader and then Second Imperialist World War (WW2) Indian National Army leader Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose last stayed in Saigon was severely damaged. (There’s Vietnam.net news footage below, after my photos). All of the roof seems charred and some metal structural supports are in place and most of the right side part of the building – largely separate – is gutted. The left side of the building seems to have intact rooms, though the roof is clearly all fire affected. I don’t want to pry, but its possible to see from the street, despite a flimsy wire barrier, some important family materials were lost – you can see the charred remains of a framed picture of a deity among that wreckage.

There had been in the past calls for the Indian Government to do smething to preserve this important site of heritage significance, though no doubt controversial for some.

* no coincidence at all that my first trade was as a picture framer

Here you can see that the roof burned, but a lot of the right side of the building itself was saved by the prompt arrival of fire brigade crews (see the news video at the end, the brigade were there within minutes).

Admittedly, my camera skills failed here today, as it was peak hour traffic on a busy road, so I did not have time to check or to climb over the barrier to get a better shot. Not even sure I should – there are personal effects here perhaps. Still, not identifiable at least in my dodgy images (Huawei, no filter)

The right side of the building is pretty much wrecked as we see here. The roof of the main part of the hours seems saveable, or at least a new metal support exo-skeleton has been fitted. No doubt many original fittings and fixtures have been tragically damaged beyond repair.

Happily the back of the building seems to have largely been spared, and today – 6 weeks after the fire, the driveway is still a thriving street food spot, with at least 6 different vendors and a dozen or so 4 seater tables providing alfresco, smokey aroma, dining.

The news report does not mention that this was the house where Netaji stayed. It does say the fire started from an infrared malfunction, that the fire threatened a nearby hostel, and that personal effects were damaged – and that it started in the art shop. Of course I am curious – this is a set back for any restoration, and so much of the old heritage buildings of HCMC are lost – though just down the street a little is the old opium factory that’s been retained and converted to upscale restaurants, in a twisted heritage gambit too – even the sign that indicated it was an opium factory is gone now though, even if the iconography on the gate remains obviously poppy (see Tim Doling’s posts on this at http://www.historicvietnam.com/wang-tai/).

For Subhas though, it is a major setback as he was promising to return to live here soon, or so ‘they’ say.

75 years of Indian independence suggests it is time for the India Govt to step in and fund a restoration.

See here for earlier Subhas in HCMC posts:

2 thoughts on “Subhas gutted in HCMC (fire at 76 Hai Ba Trung, 1.7.2022)

  1. Just reading more on this always giving story – here from a book by a Pakistani cricket manager, and eyewitness account – not inconsistencies and due incredulity, and yet…:

    Brigadier Habib told us that he had accompanied
    Subhash Chandra Bose on the fateful air journey from Saigon
    to Tokyo in August 1945. They had boarded the aircraft at
    Saigon and after a refuelling stop, the pl£ne was flying
    over northern Taiwan when one of the engines began to
    sputter. The plane rapidly lost height but the pilot
    managed to bring it down on a clearing where it crashed
    into heavy undergrowth. The occupants were severely

    injured, some dying instantly, others escaping with
    injuries. Habib himself had been thrown clear as the plane
    plunged into a thickqt because he was sitting near the tail
    of the aircraft. Though bruised and groggy, Habib found he
    could still move and ran immediately towards the burning
    aircraft to see if he could rescue his leader and others

    who may have survived. When he reached the burning

    aircraft, he saw the charred body of Subhash Chandra Bose
    lying beside the aircraft. Bose had seemingly died because
    his white sharkskin suit had caught fire and burnt his body
    beyond recognition. Habib confirmed that he along with

    several survivors had attempted to save their leader but
    his death had been due to his suit having caught f;ire

    rather than due to injuries sustained from the impact • of

    the crash. Habib confirmed that he had been an eyewitness
    to Subhash Chandra Bose’s death.

    Snipped from here: https://archive.org/stream/netaji/255_djvu.txt

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