Children in container hoax shuts down port

(Trinidad Guardian) – There was a complete shutdown of the Port-of-Spain Port on Tuesday as rumours spread throughout the country that a container with missing children had been discovered. The airwaves of radio and television stations, along with newspaper newsrooms, were buzzing with activity, as concerned people called about the rumours.

Scores of police officers, together with Customs and Excise and Port Authority police, swooped down on the port in response to radio and television reports, closing all gates and temporarily stopping all business transactions. “It was real chaos,” one businessman told the T&T Guardian.

The reports traumatised people, with one woman actually reduced to tears when she said that “her son saw the children and they were in a sad state.” A man said he was working on the port and actually saw the dead bodies in the container. Another woman said the son of a calypsonian saw the children and rushed home in tears. In the end, just as the calls came fast and furious, they disappeared with the same speed. It all started when a radio announcer reported that a container with dead bodies had been found at the city port. Then, a television station announced that it was a container with missing children, and thirdly, a report surfaced that a Cuban vessel with stowaways had been stopped by local authorities.

For hours, the T&T Guardian newsroom was flooded with calls from people from all walks of life, some high in government, and others from newspapers in the region and T&T nationals abroad. Several foreign embassies in Port-of-Spain also called the Guardian about the rumours. The main concern for many was the so-called discovery of the container with the children, which brought to the fore the reports of human trafficking in T&T over the past two years. A number of children went missing and have not been found up to today.

The police heard the rumours and quickly assembled a team which swooped down on the port. There was a report that the container with the children was about to be shipped out of the country. Although the police responded to the report, no one really knew where it came from. Then, all of a sudden, the “discovery” shifted to the Chaguaramas and Point Lisas ports. All the rumours were quickly dispelled when acting Police Commissioner James Philbert got into the act. Philbert, in a media release, said, “After a thorough check of the Port of Port-of-Spain by police officers, Port police and officers of the Customs and Excise Division, the allegations are just rumours.” Philbert also described the rumours, which circulated throughout the country, as “causing much concern among the citizens.”

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