In T&T: Fire hits still-to-be-opened performing arts centre

(Trinidad Express) Fire yesterday destroyed a portion of the multi-million dollar South Campus of the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA), still months away from its delayed official opening.

Fire officers responded to a report that smoke was seen coming from the top floor of the structure around 2 p.m. But by the time officers arrived, workers at the construction site had already put out the blaze using fire hoses, extinguishers and a bucket brigade which involved dozens of Chinese nationals working on the project site.

Construction of the facility began in 2008 as part of a series of mega-projects approved by then prime minister Patrick Manning and overseen by the Calder-Hart headed Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (UDeCOTT).

The facility, being built by Shanhai Construction Group, had a price tag of TT$252 million but was plagued by delays and cost overruns.

During a tour of the facility two weeks ago, Housing and Environment Minister, Dr Roodal Moonilal, who has oversight of UDeCOTT, he said it would cost TT$350 million before opening.

The facility is located at the corner of Todd Street and the Rienzi Kirton Highway in San Fernando.

Acting Chief Fire Officer John Springle said the fire started on the western side of the building, where the school for the performing arts is expected to be housed.

Springle said several aluminium tiles, lined with gypsum board, were destroyed. The tiles were in the colours of the Trinidad and Tobago national flag.

Fire prevention officers were at the scene last evening assessing the extent of the damage.

Investigators were unable to determine the cause of the blaze, but the Express was told that workers were seen welding near the area earlier in the day.

A worker said, “I saw thick smoke coming from the upper part of the building and then pieces of material were dropping to the ground.”

Police said the 175 workers were accounted for last evening and no one was injured.

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