At about 2:30 this morning Masum Badat was asleep at his Chapman Street, St Michael home, along with five members of his family, when he was awakened by the sound of burning wood and the smell of smoke.
A quick check revealed a burning building next door, and, alert to the fact that his own home was in danger, Badat rushed his family out.
“I went outside and the first house was burning. So I wake my children up and tell them run out the house fast,” Badat revealed.
It wasn’t long after that his home would suffer extensive damage by the seemingly insatiable fire, which consumed three other houses in the neighbourhood.
No one was injured, but the blaze left 14 people homeless, including Badat’s family, as well as 30-year-old Clem Bejonge and three members of his family and 58-year-old Aziz Begia and three family members. The fourth building was unoccupied.
All three families were left counting their losses. However, Badat told Barbados TODAY he was simply happy that his family had escaped with their lives.
“As long as God save me and my wife and my four small children, that is enough to me. It was God’s hands that saved us.”
When Barbados TODAY visited the area, those displaced were seen trying to pick up the pieces of their burnt belongings.
Troubled by their sense of loss, residents also complained that in recent years they had consistently asked health authorities to tear down the derelict house where the fire is thought to have started.
In fact, Badat said it was just two nights ago that he had to douse with water, a mattress that was on fire next to the very derelict house, which had become home to vagrants. He said the Barbados Fire Service responded, but the flame had already been extinguished when firemen arrived at the scene.
One resident who requested anonymity said they had complained to the Ministry of Health on several occasions that the building was posing a threat.
Yet, nothing was done and, as a result, the lives of three families were disrupted.
“Different inspectors would come and we would put it to them, because you would smell the faeces burning in there. On mornings you would smell the pee. We would complain all the time, and this is the result,” the concerned resident said.
Meanwhile, Yaya Bhana, the owner of one of the destroyed properties, called for legislation that would empower the authorities to destroy derelict buildings that present a threat to society.
“They [are] talking about the Government would get sue. Sue what? These are people’s lives and property that are at stake. Lick it down and then when the Government got to get back the money, get it back from the owner of the house,” an upset Bhana told Barbados TODAY.