Quarry Ex­plo­sion Kills Three Work­ers!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Clau­dia Elei­box

Sev­eral alarmed res­i­dents in the Cul-de-Sac and Od­san ar­eas, as well as fur­ther afield, on Tues­day called the Na­tional Emer­gency Man­age­ment Or­ga­ni­za­tion to re­port and seek ad­vice about what they be­lieved was an earth­quake. Oth­ers re­ferred to a blast that had shaken them to the core. It turned out there had been an ex­plo­sion at about 5.30 p.m. at a quarry op­er­ated by well-known lo­cal busi­ness­man Rayneau Ga­jad­har, lo­cated at Cul-de-Sac.

Act­ing po­lice com­mis­sioner Mil­ton De­sir was one of four pan­elists at a re­lated press con­fer­ence the next day. Also on hand was a NEMO of­fi­cial, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Gov­ern­ment In­for­ma­tion Ser­vice, and chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer Dr. Mar­lene Fred­er­ick. It emerged that 21 vic­tims of the blast were taken to Vic­to­ria Hos­pi­tal “within min­utes af­ter the in­ci­dent.” One was pro­nounced dead on ar­rival; two died at the scene of the ex­plo­sion. Four oth­ers in crit­i­cal con­di­tion were flown to Mar­tinique.

At the press con­fer­ence NEMO di­rec­tor Velda Joseph ex­plained that the or­ga­ni­za­tion op­er­ates on two pil­lars: emer­gency pre­pared­ness and co­or­di­na­tion of re­sponse. She said “the sec­ond pil­lar was brought into sharp fo­cus yes­ter­day af­ter­noon with this in­ci­dent.”

The at­ten­dant press rep­re­sen­ta­tives were re­as­sured that the fire ser­vice had re­sponded “im­me­di­ately to a call from some­one near the quarry site". The act­ing fire chief Joseph Joseph said ca­su­al­ties were al­ready be­ing trans­ported to hos­pi­tal by pri­vate ve­hi­cles when the fire ser­vice ar­rived on scene.

By all Dr. Fred­er­ick said, staff, on- and off-duty, stayed back to as­sist and had worked tire­lessly for 24 hours straight. “We’d like to com­mend the en­tire health team,” she said. “In terms of re­sponse, Vic­to­ria Hos­pi­tal ac­ti­vated all of its staff . . . we had a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of com­mu­nity doc­tors and nurses who ac­tu­ally went into the emer­gency room.” The staff at Ta­pion Hos­pi­tal, med­i­cal and non-med­i­cal, re­ceived high praise from Dr. Fred­erck.

As for what had caused the mur­der­ous ex­plo­sion, act­ing fire chief Joseph Joseph said: “All ev­i­dence on the scene will be tested, some as early as to­mor­row [Thurs­day]. Af­ter that we will have some in­for­ma­tion about the cause.”

Con­cern­ing reg­u­la­tions gov­ern­ing the stor­age of ex­plo­sives, De­sir said: “The pro­to­col for the stor­age of im­ported ex­plo­sive de­vices - an im­port per­mit from the Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice is re­quired. The ex­plo­sives must be kept in a gov­ern­ment stor­age fa­cil­ity. When ex­plo­sives are needed, they are given on de­mand. This is the pro­ce­dure for ex­plo­sives law­fully ob­tained on the is­land.”

The con­ven­ers of the press con­fer­ence of­fered their con­do­lences to fam­i­lies who lost loved ones. A press state­ment was also is­sued on Wed­nes­day by the brand­ing and mar­ket­ing man­ager at Rayneau Ga­jad­har Group of Com­pa­nies, Jade Brown, for­mer prime min­is­ter Kenny An­thony’s press sec­re­tary: “At this stage we give our un­wa­ver­ing sup­port and co­op­er­a­tion to the in­ves­ti­ga­tors as they as­sist and sup­port us in find­ing out the cause of this un­for­tu­nate ac­ci­dent. Our main in­ter­est at the mo­ment is at­tend­ing to and work­ing with the fam­i­lies of the de­ceased and in­jured and fur­ther mourn­ing with the na­tion for the loss of val­ued souls.”

Re­port­edly, a half-brother of the com­pany’s CEO per­ished at the scene of the blast.

Mean­while an im­pa­tient pub­lic—de­spite of­fi­cial re­minders that “the cause of the mat­ter is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” and that “sam­ples have been sent over­seas for anal­y­sis” —has been clam­our­ing for an­swers it feels could have been pro­vided by the own­ers of the quarry, but have not. More­over, that the po­lice are them­selves in a po­si­tion to say whether the laws re­gard­ing stor­age of ex­plo­sives were ad­hered to by the op­er­a­tors of the Cul-de-Sac quarry.

It is also not known who will foot the med­i­cal bills that are bound to be enor­mous, whether the com­pany was ad­e­quately cov­ered by in­sur­ance, and so on!

Left to right: Chief Fire Of­fi­cer Joseph Joseph, Di­rec­tor of NEMO Velda Joseph, Chief Med­i­cal Of­fi­cer Dr Mer­lene Fred­er­ick, and Act­ing Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice Mil­ton De­sir at Wed­nes­day’s press con­fer­ence.

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