Despair and relief at May Pen Market


Despair and relief at May Pen Market

Observer staff reporter

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

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Scores of vendors returned to visit their fire-ravaged stalls and shops in May Pen Market yesterday, their faces bearing expressions of hopelessness as they dug through the rubble.

“Everybody come here so fi make them belt buckle and buy material and all of it gone now. Weh we a go start? Everything mash up,” Nickoy Herron said as he stared at the remains of his mother's Trimmings and Haberdashery shop.

Herron and his mother, who declined to give her name or a comment, are among the more than 200 vendors who watched helplessly as their stocks were reduced to ash by an inferno that gutted a section of the market on Sunday.

With their livelihoods gone up in flames, Herron was almost reduced to tears while reflecting on the heart-rending experience, which has left them pondering their next move ahead of the festive season.

“Everybody pack up them something for Christmas, all of it burn down. The loan, all of them something deh gone down the drain. All money leave back in deh gone. Wi swear to God nothing nuh leave back. We have to just a pick up the pieces them, nothing nuh left,” Herron told the Jamaica Observer while holding a toddler.

“Look at my mother stall right there so, we just get called from church say we stall a burn down. We reach here quick, couldn't go nowhere; fire just a burn like nothing. Fireman can't reach it, water a done quick, so much truck a come and go, we frighten, tears a come out of everybody eye, mi a bawl till mi can't bawl no more,” he said.

“My mother tell mi to stop bawl; she strong, she never worried. She says all of us must concentrate and just go on 'cause we nuh dead yet, at least we can live fi try again,” he related, estimating their loss within the $1-million range.

While other vendors cautiously made their way through the debris littering the walkway, Texus Myles sat quietly in a reflective mood.

Myles, who said he lost about 75 per cent of his shop, was disheartened by the fact that his colleagues will have to start from the ground up.

“Most of my things them just scorch up, but others lose everything, so I have to give thanks,” Myles shared.

“This is very hard to deal with, and these things constantly happening, actually every December in May Pen Market. I've been here from 1985 and it's around three to four times now, but nothing like this. This is the worst.

“If there is such a thing as a curse, it probably is a curse, but we still have to give thanks. We have life, so we can probably start again,” he added.

Another vendor, who gave his name only as Walters, expressed mixed emotions, as his shop and stock were spared.

“I feel good about that, but mi still nuh feel good because in front of me is disaster. I was in Spanish Town when I got the call and I thought the fire was going to hit me, so I removed most of the things them out of the shop, so I am grateful but sad at the same time,” Walters said.

May Pen Vendors' Association President Maureen Green-Mason, who joined stakeholders, the business community, political representatives and other concerned citizens in a walk-through to assess the damage yesterday, shed light on the impact.

“It will affect them drastically, being that a lot of persons have already borrowed loans and have gotten their Christmas stock and everything. For some persons, almost everything, if not everything, has been damaged. It's going to be an uphill task, but we have the resilience to come again. We're fighters,” Green-Mason said.

“What I am comfortable about, I saw stakeholders I know, like from JN small business loan; I saw their representative here and that is going to bring some sort of comfort because they have first-hand knowledge of the damage that was done,” she added.

Green-Mason, though, believes some good can come from the tragedy.

“It's going to take a concerted effort, but in my opinion we have always wanted a market, a new market. So this is an opportune time, this is one of the times that we will have a reason to carry on the plan that has so long been in the parish council,” she said.

Fire Brigade Assistant Commissioner in charge of the region Patrick Gooden said investigations are at an advanced stage, although a cause has yet to be determined.

“We will be doing some work during the course of the day and to see how much evidence we can find to arrive at a determination. So we can only say that much up to this point in time,” Gooden told the Observer.

He said a preliminary estimate of the damage is between $30 million and $40 million, contradicting earlier reports that it could be over $300 million.

“Our investigation doesn't suggest that it is more than that,” Gooden said.

Gooden, while conceding to the vendors' grouse that the damage could have been contained if the town's firefighters were better equipped, sought to explain what transpired.

“In some respects, yes, there was a delay because the unit would have been at another fire scene. And so we had to pull them immediately after receiving a call, but it was immediate.”

Mayor of May Pen Winston Maragh, who led the team during the walk-through, later held a meeting with the affected vendors at the Methodist church hall on Sevens Road to decide on a way forward.

“What we'll be doing now is to take a decision which will be presented to the affected vendors, and that includes talking to some agencies that can give assistance. So we sympathise with them and we will do whatever possible to help out,” Maragh said.

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