Tragedy ig­nites need for clam­p­down on il­le­gal gas-fill­ing plants:

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Jodi-Ann Gilpin Gleaner Writer jodi-ann.gilpin@glean­erjm.com

THE UN­FOR­TU­NATE tragedy of los­ing yet an­other of Ja­maica’s youth be­cause of the ir­re­spon­si­ble ac­tion of oth­ers has sparked the need for stricter reg­u­la­tions to ex­tin­guish il­le­gal op­er­a­tions.

San­jay Wil­liams, a 14-year-old spe­cial-needs child, was the lat­est vic­tim to have suc­cumbed to his in­juries fol­low­ing a huge ex­plo­sion at an il­le­gal gas-fill­ing plant on Jacques Road, off Moun­tain View Av­enue in St An­drew, last Sun­day. Forty-eight-year-old Everett Austin also died, while three oth­ers are still ad­mit­ted in the hospi­tal in crit­i­cal con­di­tion.

Sev­eral prop­er­ties were also se­verely dam­aged, leav­ing nu­mer­ous per­sons homeless.

“It’s a great tragedy, a great tragedy,” de­clared Ju­lian Robin­son, mem­ber of par­lia­ment for the area.

“I was ac­tu­ally away when the in­ci­dent took place. I came back yes­ter­day (Fri­day) and I went to the com­mu­nity to­day (Satur­day) to visit the area and the fam­i­lies. The first pri­or­ity from my per­spec­tive is try­ing to as­sist the fam­i­lies that have been af­fected.”

He con­tin­ued, “Two sets of fam­i­lies, about 12 per­sons in to­tal, lost ev­ery sin­gle thing. Their en­tire homes were burnt down. To­day, we got some books, uni­forms, shoes and other ma­te­rial for the chil­dren, but they have an im­me­di­ate need in terms of hous­ing be­cause they have pretty much been ‘kotch­ing’ with friends.”

RES­I­DENTS URGED TO SPEAK OUT

He urged res­i­dents in his South East St An­drew con­stituency, in ad­di­tion to cit­i­zens across Ja­maica, to speak out against ac­tions that are un­law­ful, not­ing that il­le­gal op­er­a­tions have se­ri­ous con­se­quences, es­pe­cially for the vul­ner­a­ble.

“Go­ing for­ward, there’s a larger is­sue in deal­ing with il­le­gal gas op­er­a­tions like this. It’s some­thing that the po­lice will have to be more vig­i­lant in prose­cut­ing be­cause so many peo­ple are put at risk when these op­er­a­tions take place. My un­der­stand­ing is that this is some­thing that hap­pens in a num­ber of other com­mu­ni­ties and, quite frankly, would need to be shut down,” he told The Sun­day Gleaner.

“If peo­ple are aware, they need to speak out. From what I un­der­stand, not many per­sons wanted to talk about this. There’s a feel­ing that you don’t want to box bread out of some­body’s mouth, but equally, there’s huge risk for the en­tire com­mu­nity if some­thing goes wrong. While we un­der­stand that peo­ple are try­ing to make a liv­ing, this is some­thing which en­dan­gers an en­tire com­mu­nity.”

Emeleo Ebanks, pub­lic re­la­tions of­fi­cer at the Ja­maica Fire Brigade, was also stri­dent in his ap­peal, urg­ing cit­i­zens to de­sist from sup­port­ing il­le­gal op­er­a­tions that may be tak­ing place in their com­mu­ni­ties.

“In terms of reg­u­la­tions, that is some­thing we have been work­ing on for some time now, to fur­ther as­sist the Fire Brigade with these kinds of sit­u­a­tion. How­ever, we need the as­sis­tance of the pub­lic be­cause in cases like this one [Jacques Road], per­sons would have known about the op­er­a­tion, and I am sure there are other op­er­a­tions of sim­i­lar na­ture across the is­land that per­sons know about, and we still haven’t heard any­thing. No­body has called us,” Ebanks lamented.

“We haven’t re­ceived calls from the po­lice, lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, no­body. No­body has been call­ing in to re­port these sit­u­a­tions and this, as we see, is ex­tremely dan­ger­ous. I re­ally want to ap­peal to per­sons, if it is that you see these op­er­a­tions tak­ing place in your com­mu­nity, do not en­cour­age them, do not pur­chase any­thing from them be­cause, with­out cus­tomers, they will cease to op­er­ate very soon. Your re­spon­si­bil­ity is to call the au­thor­i­ties and re­port these sit­u­a­tions.”

MEET­ING FOR A SO­LU­TION

Mean­while, Rohan Am­ber­s­ley, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Gas Pro, an­nounced last week that all three lo­cal mar­ket­ing com­pa­nies of liq­ue­fied petroleum gas (LPG) – the oth­ers be­ing Pet­com and In­dus­trial Gases Lim­ited (IGL) – are to meet to dis­cuss how to stamp out the il­le­gal trade. How­ever, they are await­ing a full re­port, which re­sulted in third-de­gree burns to all the vic­tims. For this rea­son, he said a date for this meet­ing is yet to be de­cided.

Ex­perts at the Ja­maica Fire Brigade have de­ter­mined that a com­pres­sor be­ing used to con­vert and trans­fer LPG from one of two 1,000-gal­lon tanks housed in a truck ig­nited and caused the ex­plo­sion.

Ac­cord­ing to the Moun­tain View po­lice, per­sons were il­le­gally fill­ing com­pressed gas cylin­ders from a stor­age tank at­tached to the back of a mo­tor truck. It is re­ported that dur­ing the ex­trac­tion process, one of the cylin­ders caught fire and sub­se­quently ex­ploded, lead­ing to a chain re­ac­tion of other cylin­ders ig­nit­ing.

EMELEO EBANKS

JU­LIAN ROBIN­SON

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