News

MoBay blaze leaves 27 homeless

By MARK CUMMINGS Editor-at-Large Western Bureau cummingsm@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, May 11, 2014    

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — An early morning fire yesterday left 27 people, including 11 children homeless, after the blaze swept through their seven-house tenement yard at 17 Paradise Row in the resort city of Montego Bay.

"At approximately 2:06 am we responded to a call received at Paradise Row. Five units responded with a complement of 20 firefighters," District Officer at the St James Department of the Jamaica Fire Brigade O'Neil Kerr, told reporters yesterday.

"Upon arrival we realised that seven houses were being affected by this fire, and we immediately got into operation which lasted for about three hours," added Kerr.

Daisy Bell-Dewar, 97, who lived in one of the houses at the tenement yard, and had to be rescued by neighbours, said she has lost everything.

"Everything gone, not even a sweetie to put a mi mouth. I have no shoes, no clothes, nothing to eat...everything gone," said Bell-Dewar, who has been living at Paradise Row for more than four decades.

The elderly woman who lived alone in one of the dilapidated wooden structures, told the Jamaica Observer that shortly before 2:00 am she felt "heat coming in mi face and mi back, so mi sey it look like fire deh 'bout here, so after mi look outside mi see deh fire, and bawl out fi fire."

"After mi bawl out one young man come grab mi and sey 'come grandma' and him tek mi outside and put mi down right yah suh (another house few metres away),"said Bell-Dewar.

Damion Whyte, a mason, who occupied one of the houses on the premises with his two children, aged 12 and four, said he only managed to save a bed and a television set before his two-bedroom house was gutted.

"Mi lose almost everything, only one of mi beds and mi TV mi save. Everything else gone, mi tools, mi pay weh mi get yesterday (Friday) which is about $30,000 bun up, clothes, shoes... everything gone," Whyte wailed.

Other distraught occupants of dwellings on the compound, expressed doubt about their children attending school tomorrow.

"Right now mi money, pickney dem uniform, books, shoes... burn up, mi nuh know how dem a go a school on Monday," one parent said.

Last night, Suzette Brown, the councillor for the Montego Bay South Division in which Paradise Row falls, appealed to the private sector for help, noting that Government does not have the resources to assist so many people.

"To get assistance (from government) is going to be rough, because the resources are limited," emphasised Brown, who yesterday visited Paradise Row and met with the affected residents.

She pledged, however, to do "everything in my power" to get the residents back on their feet.

"So far I have called in the Disaster Preparedness Officer for St James and after an assessment was done, persons were taken into the St James Parish Council and given beds, clothing items," said Brown.

She added that Member of Parliament for the area Lloyd B Smith had promised to send food for the displaced residents.

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