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Coronation Burns!

Some vendors say they lost everything

BY KIMMO MATTHEWS Observer staff reporter matthewsk@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, May 05, 2014    

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MILLIONS of dollars in goods and equipment were destroyed last night by a fire which razed more than 30 stalls at Coronation Market, West Kingston.

Two firefighters were also injured as they suffered electric shock from several live power wires while they fought to put out the blaze.

Police said that about 5:00 pm, vendors saw smoke coming from the Chapel Lane end of the market facility and raised an alarm.

"I was in the market to carry out some work when I see the smoke and start call out fire, fire!" vendor Horace Campbell told the Jamaica Observer.

Campbell made the comment while standing among a large group of vendors who gathered at the location and watched in shock and anger as firefighters fought for more than an hour to put out the blaze.

Firefighters said that they received the call minutes after 5:00 pm but, despite quick action, they were not able to save several stalls. However, they said that they were able to ensure that the inferno did not spread to other areas.

"We received a call about the fire around minutes after 5:00 pm and were able to respond shortly after", said Assistant Superintendent Lawrence Campbell of the York Park Fire Station.

"Four units, from Rollington Town, Trench Town and York Park, were used to bring the fire under control," Campbell told the Observer.

"Two of our men were shocked by loose electric wires while they were putting out the blaze," another fireman said, while sighing with relief that their injuries were not considered life-threatening.

As firemen and police worked to bring the blaze under control, vendors wept openly as they grappled with the sight of their goods being destroyed.

"Ah sleep mi a sleep when mi hear the calls for fire and mi jump up and see people a rush out," said Damion Blackwood, a vendor who said that he lost everything.

"Mi say all now mi can't believe it. All of mi goods, all of mi belongings destroyed," said another vendor who had to be consoled by a friend as he watched firefighters carry out cooling down operations.

Senior citizen Evadney Redway also shared a similar story, claiming that she too lost everything.

"I was at home when I got the call, and when I came, I saw all of my belongings destroyed," said Redway.

She made the comment as she searched through the rubble, trying to salvage what she could from the remainder of her shop that was gutted by the fire.

Coronation Market is viewed as the pivotal point of trade and commerce in the heart of Kingston. It was refurbished in 2011, after being partially burnt during the security operation into Tivoli Gardens in May 2010.

Police and soldiers had gone to the volatile community to extract then community don Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, who was wanted by the United States Government on drug-trafficking and gunrunning charges.

Coke, who ran sections of West Kingston like his own fiefdom, was later captured by local police, waived his right to an extradition hearing, and was sent away to the United States where he was found guilty of gun and drug-related charges and sent to prison to serve a 23-year sentence.

The 2010 fire had occurred at a time when vendors had been avoiding the market, after violence broke out in West Kingston.

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