Residents of Hauraruni, on the Linden-Soesdyke Highway, yesterday appealed for an intervention by the relevant authorities to fix their access road, days after a fire service truck was unable to reach the village to put out an early morning fire that nearly razed its Multi-Complex Hall.
According to Jonathan Banwarie, a pastor who has been living in the little community for more than three decades, the Multi-Complex Hall is the village’s main building, where most activities are held.
Along with holding church sessions, the large building is also used as the Hauraruni International Missionary Training Centre, where youth camps and conferences are hosted. Over 800 children would stay in the building during the Easter and summer breaks, which will prove to be difficult after the fire, since more than 1,000 mattresses as well as furniture and other supplies were destroyed.
Banwarie estimated that they lost over $12 million in valuables.
He explained that around 2am on Tuesday, some students were awakened by the scent of something burning and subsequently discovered that the roof of the complex hall was engulfed by flames. They quickly alerted him and other residents, who rushed to the scene armed with buckets.
The Guyana Fire Service (GFS) was subsequently called, but the villagers had to contain and extinguish the fire
themselves since no assistance turned up.
He explained that after they called the GFS, more than 60 villagers turned out and offered their assistance. They were eventually able to contain the fire to two sections and prevented it from razing the entire building, which Banwarie says they are elated for.
He explained that after more than two hours of fighting the fire, he ventured out of the village to search for the GFS and was surprised when he found them at the head of the access road.
“I found them at the road head while I was going out to make the report. They said they were there but couldn’t come in because of the road,” he explained, while pointing out that if the fire service was able to access the community, then they might not have incurred such significant loss.
“The road has never been done since 1975. How you saw it with those bricks on the road, the villagers themselves, along with missionaries broke bricks and used building waste to build it up. In the village, we have a clinic, nursery school, primary school, secondary school and a girl’s home. Let’s say somebody gets sick and an ambulance wants to come, they can’t,” Banwarie pointed out.
He further explained that the cost to use taxis and other public transportation to access the village is astronomical and often not feasible.
“The same amount of money you pay to transport sand to Georgetown is the same money you pay to come in here. Persons who want to go out and study find it difficult. To come in here from the junction is $2,000 and if it’s late it’s more,” he said.
Banwarie also pointed out that the state of the road damages the residents’ vehicles and they would often incur high maintenance costs.
“You buy a brand new tyre and it burst right away. I damage my vehicles a lot and the road gets so bad in the dry season that you end up being stuck and it’s very terrible. You can’t pass at all. The people of the community have [come] together and been using construction waste, but when it comes to government’s help with the road, it has never been,” he added.
Debra Wong, Civil Defence Commission chairperson of the community, also explained that most of the time pensioners would have to trek through the thick sand, and sometimes mud, of the two km long road to get to the Linden-Soesdyke highway.
“We are not quarrelling or protesting, but because of what happened we don’t want in the event of another emergency nothing can’t come in. We make do with whatever we have and walk, but it is our concern now because if the fire service could’ve been here if not for the road,” Wong explained.
Banwarie and Wong also appealed to the government and any other agency to assist them with rebuilding their Multi-Complex Hall since they have suffered a major setback in their plan to host their regular camp and convention in August.
They related that they have been sending letters to the relevant authorities for years, but have never received a response or any other feedback.