Riverton dump fire spreads

BY KIMMO MATTHEWS Observer staff reporter matthewsk@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, March 12, 2015

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THE Jamaica Fire Brigade yesterday said that the latest fire at the Riverton dump -- which since Wednesday had blanketed much of the city with choking smoke — had grown twice in size to approximately five acres, despite intense efforts to keep it under control.

Public Relations Director Emilio Ebanks told the Jamaica Observer that strong winds had proved a major challenge to the team's response. Approximately 70 fire-fighters were on the scene.

"The situation has been made worse because of strong wind conditions," said Ebanks of the fire, the cause of which was not ascertained up to late yesterday.

A total of eight fire trucks and four tractors -- two D9 and two D12 -- were brought to the site to fight the blaze.

"The situation, as it is right now, is very challenging. We understand the circumstance but we are doing the best we can," Ebanks said as he called on members of the public to brace themselves for more discomfort that the worsening problem would cause.

A worsening of the problem would be bad news for city dwellers who woke up to a hazy morning as a result of the smoke from the landfill.

"Since the fire started we have been having problems breathing, the thick smoke has forced many of us out of our homes," one woman from Callaloo Mews told the Observer.

Meanwhile, Opposition spokesman on local government, Desmond Mckenzie, said that the latest fire was as a result of the Government's failure to implement proper waste management programmes.

"The local government ministry, through the NSWMA (National Solid Waste Management Authority) and the Ministry of Health, have failed the people of Kingston with their lacklustre response to the fire which is now raging at the Riverton City landfill," McKenzie argued. "This is not the first fire and it seems they are getting more frequent. It seems they don't know how to do the job they are paid to do."

McKenzie also noted that since Wednesday he has received numerous complaints from people living as far as Harbour View and on the University of the West Indies and University of Technology campuses in Papine about the choking smoke. He said that residents of Duhaney Park, Red Hills, Meadowbrook, Hope Pastures and several other areas were also badly affected.

McKenzie said that he was particularly concerned about reports of an increase in the number of children turning up at the Bustamante Hospital for Children with respiratory problems.

Yesterday, a representative of the South East Regional Health Authority said that the Ministry of Health would be carrying out an assessment to get a better idea of the number of patients who have turned up at medical facilities, including the Bustamante Children's Hospital, with respiratory difficulties.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education has given the authorisation for schools directly affected by the smoke to remain closed.




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