NASSAU – Angry home owners in Jubilee Gardens yesterday expressed disgust and concern that neither the Progressive Liberal Party nor the Free National Movement have done enough to prevent the frequent fires at the New Providence Landfill that have caused some of them to develop respiratory issues.
Their comments came as a massive fire was raging at the landfill, which officials believe was started by a smaller bush fire off Fire Trail Road that spread to the city dump. The fire blanketed Jubilee Gardens and surrounding areas in thick, black smoke and threatened several homes, prompting officials to order an evacuation of the area.
However, not everyone was willing to leave their homes.
One resident Muris Campbell, who refused to evacuate, told The Tribune she has hurricane impact windows and will stay in her home to protect her property. However, she was concerned that officers, who barricaded the entrance to the subdivision, would not let her return to her home to assist her grandchildren, who were in the house and scared.
“I need to get my grandkids. Three of them are in there, one is 11 and one is nine. I have been here from the time [former Prime Minister] Hubert Ingraham cut the ribbon,” Campbell said.
“Everyone knows how this place is, they see how it looks when the dump catch on fire. They see what we going through. No one is hearing us, no one is helping us. Where must I go if I evacuate, who will help you? Everyone don’t have people to help. I soon retire and I must stay home to this? No one helping you.
“When you speak out what will happen? I haven’t heard from anyone in the house, I can hardly talk. I wish one of these people come to my door and ask for my vote, they will get what they come for,” she said.
Another resident Carton Duvalier said he developed respiratory issues because of the frequent smoke and he is “pissed off” that no one seems to care.
“No one has done anything for us, the issue is poor management on all these governments,” he said. “The dump was here before we came here, we moved here in 1996 and the dump was here and they continued to build and now people can look out their back window and see the dump.
“I developed respiratory issues because of this. When I went to the doctor because I couldn’t breathe properly he asked me where I live, I say I live Jubilee Gardens and the doctor say that’s why I have problems. Everyday, when it isn’t the smoke, it’s the scent. Come on, something have to done about it. I blame the government, the PLP, the FNM and the residents because we sit here and we suck it up and do nothing. People lives being threatened, people homes being threatened – imagine the kids that have to sleep in this. This is ridiculous and I am pissed off,” Duvalier added.
Member of Parliament for Tall Pines, Leslie Miller said the government “has to find the answer”.
He said his constituents cannot continue to suffer but the solution is not to move the dump.
“The foreign people that was here gone, and now the dump is back in the government hands,” said Miller, who tried to help the situation by pouring water on smouldering areas in Jubilee Gardens. “Hopefully they do something quick, but the answer is not to move the dump, a minimum for the dump is 200 acres of land, there is nowhere in New Providence that is close to that to put up a new dump, we have to run this properly and keep the stragglers out. For the last 30 years people have been starting these fires intentionally.
“Some people just sick and they like fire and with this wind there is nothing you can do but move out of your home because of the smoke. If someone decides they are going to light a fire at the dump, what can you do? It’s arson and it happens from time to time, people get mad and light the dump. There is nothing you can do about it, you cannot put up a new dump, you just have to manage it better and have better security. I feel sorry for these people, this is horrendous.”
Miller claims two homes caught fire but were extinguished by residents immediately.
Fire Chief Superintendent Walter Evans said no lives were lost and he had no reports of homes being destroyed or damaged by the blaze up to press time, however he said several homes were threatened. He could not say how many residents were evacuated.
He said police and fire services were also fighting blazes in other areas: near Loyola Hall, the National Emergency Management Agency and the Bahamas Youth Camp, which are all on Gladstone Road and another fire on Charles Saunders Highway.
The city dump has been plagued with recurring fires for a number of years. Renew Bahamas was engaged by the government in 2014 to manage the landfill and help address the matter, however the company suspended its services in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.
Since then, The Waste Resources Development Group (WRDG), a consortium of ten Bahamian waste management groups, has submitted a proposal to take over the operations at the landfill. Yesterday Prime Minister Perry Christie confirmed that two companies, both Bahamian, have submitted bids to run the dump. Christie, who toured the affected areas, said the matter should be resolved shortly.
Residents who live in Jubilee Gardens and surrounding areas were advised by the government to evacuate, with the Kendal Isaacs Gym being a designated shelter for anyone displaced by the fire.
“The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has activated its emergency plan and all available resources have been mobilized,” a statement from the Office of the Prime Minister said.
“Although it is too early to be certain, at first sight it appears that a number of fires were started in the area. Because of the high winds currently being experienced on New Providence, it appears that at least one of those fires blew across the boundary and ignited the public landfill,” the statement added.
The statement also said the government will reach out to international partners for assistance, if and when the situation