Commercial buildings still unsafe after Campus Trendz, warns Comissiong
Four years after the 2010 tragedy that claimed the lives of six young women in a clothing store in Tudor Street, the City, commercial buildings both in and out of Bridgetown are yet to meet the necessary safety standards, laments social activist David Comissiong.
He said today he was deeply disappointed that the lives of thousands of Barbadians continue to be put at risk whenever they patronize or work in certain commercial buildings in this country.
Comissiong, who is the head of the September 3rd Foundation, is therefore calling on Government to “get on” with the task of seeking to rectify the lack of safety mechanisms before any more lives are lost, while noting that among the six Campus Trendz fire victims, were shop attendants, as well as customers who simply happened to be patronizing the city store when tragedy struck.
“. . . So the same way it happened to them, it could happen to other Barbadians,” he warned.
“It is a risk to be operating in a shop that has only one door, that has no fire escape, perhaps has no fire fighting equipment and so Barbadian lives continue to be at risk,” he told Barbados TODAY after a press conference called to discuss plans for the fourth anniversary of the September 3rd event.
Comissiong, who is an attorney-at-law, also appealed for there to be a national programme, sponsored by the Government, which would not only obligate owners to renovate and make the appropriate changes to existing buildings that do not meet the required standards, but also provide them with the necessary loan facilities to assist them in carrying out such works.
He said while it was expected that buildings constructed post September 3, 2010 be safety compliant, those in existence before the tragedy would need to be policed in order to ensure that they conformed with the necessary standards.
To ensure that this occurred, Comissiong said the authorities, through the Town and Country Planning Department, should beef up inspection of commercial buildings, including stores and shops.
“I thought more would have been done after the lives of those six beautiful young women were snuffed from us . . . But we have seen no evidence of such programmes. There has been no indication that any of these measures have been put in place since the third of September, 2010 and that is very disappointing because one would have thought that the third of September 2010 tragedy was of such a magnitude that the authorities would not have needed any further motivation to get on with the job of doing what is necessary,” he said.
“It is sad that it might take a lawsuit to bring corrective action to that issue, but we [would] like to appeal to the authorities to do something about it.
“If you go back to 1937, you would see that [historian] Hilton Vaughn raised issues about these conditions. He was bemoaning the conditions of the shop girls in Tudor Street . . . . Fast forward to 2010, to 2014, and precious little has been done.
“It is not good enough and I think the authorities really need to do their duties,” Comissiong stressed.