Workers and residents of the Lake’s Folly in The City had a scare this afternoon, as a major fire at the Bridgetown Sewage Treatment Plant disrupted the usual slumber of the district.
Chief Fire Officer Wilfred Marshall said the alarm was raised just around one o’clock, and two tenders from the Problyn Street Headquarters of the Barbados Fire Service responded.
“On arrival we were informed that there was chlorine in the area where the fire was, and we immediately treated the situation as a HazMat incident. We increased the manpower and the resources on the ground, and we went into firefighting and evacuation mode.
“We evacuated all persons in the immediate area of the plant and were subsequently joined and assisted by members of the Royal Barbados Police Force, the Barbados Defence Force and members of the Roving Response team. They extended the evacuation right as far as the wind was travelling, to ensure that we had persons cleared from that area,” he told members of the media from the command centre, which was the car park of the former Evelyn Roach & Co.
A total of over 90 responders converged on the scene, directing traffic and exercising crowd control, as residents and business staff from at least eight avenues within the Chapman Lane, Emmerton, and Lake’s Folly district, were evacuated –– police and soldiers in masks canvassing door to door advising residents to leave.
Marshall said that initially they had some challenges with persons who refused to move.
“[I]t would have been for their own good, health and safety when we would have given that notice . . . . We looked at where the smoke was travelling and we extended that down to the Harbour Road in the southerly direction, because that was the direction the wind was in . . . and the smoke was worrying the south-westerly direction; so all those people that were in that area and up towards the General Post Office, up to Jubilee Gardens [were evacuated from the area].”
The Fire Chief further explained that in the initial stages residents “were [asked to] evacuate as a precautionary measure because of the presence of the chlorine”.
“We didn’t want the chlorine involved and then have to try to get everybody out while there were toxins in the air. Now that we are satisfied that it [the chlorine] is no longer a threat, they can move back in.”
Member of Parliament for The City, Jeffrey Bostic, who was on hand and also canvassed households, praised the swift response by officials, but called for a sensitization programme, especially for City residents to educate them on the importance of obeying instructions during an emergency.
“Obviously it was for their own good, but they felt comfortable in their own homes. I think in the end most people did evacuate. We had some challenges though with some persons who were elderly and some incapacitated. I think this is something that we need to look at in terms of identifying some central area where people can actually evacuate to because there was a problem identifying where those people could have actually gone,” he stated.