A massive fire at the Harold Road dump yesterday forced scores of residents in the Jubilee Gardens area to evacuate their homes due to the large amount of smoke.
The Public Service Announcement to evacuate all residents was given by Fire Chief Superintendent Walter Evans after he had been given the “greenlight” by Environment Minister Kenred Dorsett.
Mr. Dorsett cited obvious health concerns for residents living in the area as the driving for the mass evacuations, as thick black smoke covered the entire Jubilee Gardens area and the adjacent Gladstone Road.
The minister also took the opportunity to shoot down rumors that were quickly spreading that the fire had started on the dump.
“The reality is it is not a fire that started on the landfill due to the reports I received but it spread quickly to the landfill. It’s tragic that this has happened but all the resources we currently have available to us are currently being deployed,” Mr. Dorsett said.
He added that officials from the Ministry of Health were also deployed in the area to help with possible respiratory ailments.
Superintendent Evans told reporters that the origin of the blaze was a small bush fire which was fueled by the heavy wind that the capital was experiencing over the past few days.
Mr. Evans added that three fires had broken out simultaneously on the island in which homes were being threatened and fire services deployed. As well as the landfill blaze, one home was destroyed and one extensively damaged in the Charles Vincent Street area.
At the same time in the Farrington Road area, a large number of homes were threatened by another fire.
Several fire units had been posted to these incidents making fire service resources extremely limited.
Prime Minister Perry Christie was on the scene shortly after the scale and intensity of the blaze was confirmed. The Heads of the Key Emergency Services, along with Captain Russell of NEMA, ministers of the relevant Government Agencies and Departments, along with a number of local Members of Parliament, were present as well.
Prime Minister Christie confirmed that the government will reach out to international partners for assistance, if and when the situation warrants it.
“The number one priority is to ensure that everyone is safe. I am confident that the Emergency Services are doing whatever is required to make certain that no-one comes to harm. We have already made every resource available to limit the damage to property, and to minimize environmental harm,” Mr. Christie said.
While many of the residents in the area were scrambling to evacuate their homes and escape the smoke inhalation, The Journal managed to speak with Urvan Moxey a decade long resident of the area who explained his frustration with the government as he felt this situation could have been avoided
“You see what is happening right now, the situation was unavoidable, this isn’t the first time this has happened.
“Citizens need to speak out against the social injustices that are happening in this country. We have to stop worrying about political affiliations, this is the only way we are going to thrive as a nation,” Mr. Moxey said.
The Journal spoke with Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller on scene who was engaged in a heated discussion with several residents.
“Many of the constituents are blaming the government when this isn’t necessarily a government created issue.
“Clearly the fire was man made and some lit the dump on fire, I don’t understand why persons are making this a political issue,” Mr. Miller said.
Mr. Miller’s comments were prompted by the FNM’s candidate for the area Don Saunders showing up in a Free National Movement hat.
The Journal also spoke Mr. Saunders who said if elected this would be the first issue he resolves.
“The reality is for the last year and a half I’ve been campaigning here in Jubilee and Tall Pines and I have always told them that this dump will be priority number one when I become the area’s member of parliament.
“This isn’t the first time I’ve raised an issue concerning this matter, this is going to be something the FNM deals with immediately, I have already spoken with several persons in this community.
“To the people in Tall Pines, this environmental issue will be the first file on my desk and we will tackle it on day one,” Mr. Saunders said.
Evacuation facilities were subsequently established at the Kendal Isaacs Gym in Oakes Field.
The National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, has activated its Emergency Plan, and all available resources have been mobilized.