Picking up the pieces

Wellington street residents, displaced by the night fire that swept through their neighbourhood on May 5, are gradually rebuilding their lives.

Minister with Responsibility for Crime Prevention and parliamentary representative for The City Corey Lane confirmed that the affected residents have been relocated to White Park Road, St Michael under a rent-to-own arrangement through the Ministry of Housing, Lands and Maintenance (MHLM).

Lane added that the residents will be given grace from the ministry.

Forty-nine-year-old Francesca Conibert-Daniels and her husband Ian Daniels are grateful for the support they received from the community and various organisations.

“We have been given vouchers for food, lots and lots of foodstuffs. We got stuff from Courts, they gave us a stove, fridge, bed and a dining set. So you know, you can be reasonably comfortable because you can cook, you can store your goods, you can sleep comfortably so that has been good,” she said.

Her husband, Ian, similarly expressed his gratitude.

“I don’t want to be ungrateful and truly the Prime Minister, and parliamentary representative Corey Lane, the Sandy Lane [Charitable Trust], they have gone above and beyond and, for that, I am thankful,” he said.

The Daniels escaped with only their phones, a purse and the clothes on their backs.

“I made some tea and my husband said he would like some. How the chattel houses are I could see some light through the back door and I thought, ‘at this time of the night they burning things?’ and then in a couple seconds my husband said, ‘no babe something is wrong, this is not normal, the flames are too high’,” she said.

Daniels explained that there was little space between her and the neighbour’s house and a galvanised sheet that stretched from their backyard onto the house caught fire and that was when they sounded the alarm.

“It was just going from then, trying to stop this thing that I couldn’t believe was happening. I really was trying to save the house. All the while the house was starting to burn I wasn’t leaving. I was really trying to save it but it came to a point where I could not breathe and I couldn’t see. By the time I got to the front my husband said to take up something and let go,” she added.

For Robert Gill he wonders what “could have been”.

He was waking from a light sleep and was hoping for the quiet comfort of home after a long day when he saw a flash of light at the window.

“I hear this boom! So I just rush and look up. I had on a boxers and I just walk downstairs. On my way out I just took out my ID and just walk out. When I look out and I looked over to my neighbour, their house was almost burned already,” he recalled.

Gill rushed outside with his shoes, boxers, and ID card.

“I thought the firemen would have gotten there on time because you weren’t hearing nothing, sirens or nothing. Then it came down and parked right in front my house, so from there I told one of the fire guys to come with me. When I make a step forward some smoke just come my way and he told me to turn back, so I say ‘okay’, and a couple of seconds the guy came back out and I never went back in the house since that. I had money all over the place that I got paid for that day.

“I just thought these guys would have really out that thing . . . but everybody want to save their house, everybody confusing the firemen, so there was a lot of confusion. Then the problems with the hydrants and the water, it was a lot of issues on that day,” Gill added.

He is thankful for the ray of hope from the various organisations and concerned citizens, and especially credited the St Ambrose Church as well as the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witness.

Seeta Greaves and her husband Ramnarine Singh opted against relocation to White Park Road, and the family of five is staying with a friend. They said the rebuilding has been difficult.

It  has been made more challenging as Singh sustained injuries on the job four months ago when he fell off a cliff. He only returned home from the hospital a few days before the blaze.

“My husband lost two storerooms full of tools because he’s a contractor and he was home for four months so his tools were home. Everything lost, and the washing machine, freezer, stove, fridge, lots and lots of things lost. I don’t know if anybody going to help us back with some tools, I don’t know what they are going to do,” she said.

Greaves appealed for help, noting that her husband was in dire need of a wheelchair and they wanted sheets, bedspreads, mattresses and school supplies.

In response to the pleas, Lane assured that the necessary aid would be given the family, including a wheelchair. (JRN)

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