(Trinidad Guardian) A fireworks “war” between residents of Nelson Street and Mango Rose, East Dry River, is being blamed for a fire that claimed the life of a disabled man and left 15 people homeless. The fire broke out at about 2.30 am yesterday at Building 55-57, Nelson Street, Port-of-Spain.
Dead is Jameel Allamby, 37, who used a wheelchair. He was trapped in his burning apartment and suffocated and died. His mother, Rosalyn, tried to save him, police said, but could not. Police officers had to bodily carry the screaming woman away from the scene.
“The woman kept screaming for her son and we had to withhold the truth from her that her son died. Very tragic and sad. Very heartbreaking to see this,” an officer at the scene told the T&T Guardian.
One of the affected residents, Everald Trudge, 70, who lived in an apartment on the upper floor, said the building caught on fire when a fireworks device landed on it. The fire quickly spread through some of the apartments, including his, completely destroying them. Trudge lived there with his 17-year-old grandson, Jabari Auguste.
“This is a terrible start to the New Year for me. I lost everything. I might have to live in the river now because I have no where to go,” he said.
He blamed the tragedy on a “fireworks war “ that had been waged for the past week with some residents setting off fireworks and scratch bombs “to see whose better at it.”
Trudge said: “That’s the kind of game they playing.”
An officer from the Inter Agency Task Force (IATF) later told the T&T Guardian that fireworks are believed to be the cause of the blaze. The officer said even police had come under attack as fireworks had been thrown at marked police vehicles.
“It has been days now we are battling with these people. They are not firing off the fireworks in the air but using it as weapons aiming it at each other, at other people, buildings and even us, the police,” the officer said.
“They have no fear whatsoever and this is what we have to be dealing with on the ground. Many times we tried to make arrests but without any kind of success.”
The police believe the explosive devices among items stolen from a container belonging to a fireworks dealer.
“We have information that an entire container of fireworks was stolen and it is suspected that this is the same fireworks being used by the Mango Rose/East Dry River residents. The people from Nelson Street, from what we were told, have mainly scratch bombs and were using that in the fireworks war,” the IATF officer said.
Last Wednesday, president of the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) Gregory Aboud called for a ban on the sale and storage of fireworks in Port-of-Spain. He made the call one day after police swooped down on street vendors to search for unlicensed sales fireworks and illegal scratch bombs.
Public Administration Minister Maxie Cuffie recently launched a campaign to stop the sale and use of scratch bombs and illegal fireworks and appealed to citizens to develop a culture of care for their neighbours and the elderly.
On December 30, the T&T Police Service warned against improper use and unauthorised sale of fireworks. In a release, the TTPS cited the Summary Offences Act Chapter 11:02 section 99 (i) which states that any person who throws, casts, sets fire to, or lets off any fireworks within any town is liable to a fine of $1000. Section 99 (2) and sections 100 and 101 define a “town” to include the cities of Port-of-Spain and San Fernando, the Borough of Arima, and every part of the area within two miles of the boundaries of cities and boroughs.