Trinidad: Kids blamed for Diwali fire which left 11 homeless

A stressed Roger Rampersad sits on the side of the road as he reflects on his home that was destroyed by fire on Tuesday night in Baksh Sett Ext1 Mc Bean Couva.

(Trinidad Guardian) The par­ents of a group of chil­dren yes­ter­day ques­tioned why they were be­ing ac­cused of throw­ing a scratch bomb in­to an up­hol­stery work­shop, lead­ing to a fire which left 11 Cou­va res­i­dents home­less on Di­vali night.

Speak­ing to the T&T Guardian yes­ter­day, the moth­er of one of the chil­dren, who wished not to be named, said it was un­fair for her chil­dren and nephews to be blamed for caus­ing the fire.

The fire vic­tims are Michael Ram­per­sad, 61; his sons Roger, 37 and Jim­my, 36; Jim­my’s wife Videya Lal­la, 34 and their four chil­dren ages 13, 12, 10 and sev­en and Lal­la’s broth­er Daryl Ram­narace. Two ten­ants who were rent­ing at the Ram­per­sad’s res­i­dence—Kurt Al­dol­phus and An­der­son Be­deau—al­so lost every­thing in the blaze. Adol­phus has been rent­ing a one-room self-con­tained apart­ment for the past year, while Be­deau said he be­gan stay­ing there for the last four months.

Jim­my’s old­est daugh­ter is a Cara­pichaima East Sec­ondary School pupil while his oth­er three chil­dren at­tend the Mc Bean Hin­du Pri­ma­ry School.

The in­ci­dent took place at Baksh Set­tle­ment Ex­ten­sion 1, off De­onar­ine Junc­tion, at about 6.45 pm on Tues­day.

Speak­ing with the T&T Guardian, Jim­my said he was at home with one of his sons when neigh­bours called out to him say­ing his fa­ther’s up­hol­stery work­shop was on fire. He blamed the fire on a group of chil­dren who were al­leged­ly play­ing with scratch bombs and fire­works on the street.

Jim­my said dur­ing last year’s Di­vali cel­e­bra­tions there was a sim­i­lar in­ci­dent when chil­dren al­leged­ly again threw fire­works in­to his fa­ther’s work­shop which caused a small fire.

“We man­aged to out that and we tired beg them to stop that, look what they did. Now, this year, the same chil­dren’s play with these dan­ger­ous things now caused our home to be burnt down leav­ing all of us home­less and with noth­ing,” Jim­my said.

Videya Lalla and her husband Jimmy Rampersad walk through the ruins of their burnt out home yesterday which was guttered by fire on Tuesday night on Baksh Sett Ext1 Mc Bean Couva.

How­ev­er, the moth­er of one of the chil­dren chal­lenged this claim, say­ing they were all in the front yard lim­ing when they no­ticed the work­shop on fire.

“We don’t know what caused it and it is wrong for them to blame the chil­dren. We tried to out the fire and I my­self called Michael to tell him that his house was on fire. And I was the one who called the fire of­fi­cers,” the emo­tion­al woman said.

The woman’s broth­er said he at­tempt­ed to out the fire with a hose he had pulled from his yard.

“I grabbed the hose and tried to out it and with buck­ets up­on buck­ets of wa­ter we couldn’t. In about 20 min­utes the fire spread and de­stroyed the homes. It is a sad thing, luck­i­ly no one died in the blaze.

“But, you can’t ac­cuse peo­ple so…how they can ac­cuse the chil­dren?” the chil­dren’s un­cle said.

The moth­er added: “So then we are mad par­ents to give the chil­dren fire­works then? The chil­dren were play­ing with fun snaps and starlight right in our yard…they were not on the road and they did not throw any­thing in the work­shop. But you can’t ac­cuse peo­ple so—how they can ac­cuse the chil­dren.”

Asked if they knew about last year’s in­ci­dent which was al­leged to have been caused by the same chil­dren’s play, the moth­er replied: “I don’t know any­thing about that.”

A neigh­bour, who wished not to be iden­ti­fied, claimed he saw “a lot of clean­ing up tak­ing place at the time the fire broke out.”

“All I can say is that when the fire was go­ing on peo­ple were busy sweep­ing up and pick­ing up fire­works and starlight pa­per from the yard right next door to Michael and them. I al­so heard that the chil­dren were be­ing told to ‘shut up’ and don’t say any­thing but, in all this, I hope good sense pre­vails …that’s all I can say…I not go­ing to call any­body name.”

How­ev­er, Michael, in sim­i­lar words to his son, said he strong­ly be­lieves the chil­dren were the cause of the de­struc­tion. He said he was do­ing up­hol­stery jobs for about sev­en cus­tomers, in­clud­ing a pop­u­lar restau­rant and lounge in the Cou­va area.

“All the peo­ple’s chairs for the restau­rant and peo­ple’s couch sets burnt in the fire and Christ­mas is right around the cor­ner. This here is very un­for­tu­nate and sad…I sweat and toiled day and night for years to work for what I have and in min­utes every­thing gone.”

Jim­my said he and his wife spent ap­prox­i­mate­ly $150,000 to build their new home, which is an an­nexe to his fa­ther’s main house. He added that he al­so took out $17,000 worth of fur­ni­ture and ap­pli­ances to fur­nish his home.

“I am still pay­ing the in­stal­ments. My daugh­ter passed for a new school and her books and uni­form alone cost $3,000. I worked very hard to en­sure that my chil­dren have every­thing that they need­ed and more.”

Ram­narace said while they un­der­stand ac­ci­dents hap­pen there has been no apol­o­gy from the par­ents of the chil­dren.

“It just so strange that no one come and say they are sor­ry at least.”

His sen­ti­ments were al­so ex­pressed by both Jim­my and Michael.

Yes­ter­day, of­fi­cials from the Dis­as­ter Man­age­ment Unit of the Cou­va/Tabaquite/Tal­paro Re­gion­al Cor­po­ra­tion as­sessed the scene. How­ev­er, be­fore they can pro­ceed fur­ther in as­sist­ing the vic­tims they will have to wait un­til fire pre­ven­tion of­fi­cers com­plete their in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Any­one wish­ing to help the fam­i­ly can call them at 318-4527, 487-2999 and/or 369-2319.

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