An urgent appeal is being made to Government and in particular the National Housing Corporation (NHC) to ensure that their housing units are electrically sound.
This after fire today destroyed one of three bedrooms in an NHC unit occupied by a family of three at Haynesville, St James.
Forty-three-year-old Ryan Odle, who shares the unit with his mother Judy Carrington and his seven-year-old daughter, who is a student of the West Terrace Primary School, said this morning’s blaze, which destroyed his daughter’s bedroom, caught him totally off guard.
And though no one was seriously injured, Odle reported that his mother was treated at the state-run Queen Elizabeth Hospital after suffering an asthma attack. However, all of his daughter’s personal belongings went up in smoke, except for a couple school uniforms that were downstairs at the time of fire.
Odle told Barbados TODAY that he had just left home and was cleaning a vehicle when someone reported to him that they had seen smoke coming from the upstairs window of his home.
“When I come around here the [entire] bedroom was on fire,” he said.
While assuring that nothing was left plugged in the bedroom, he suggested that the unit was plagued by some kind of electrical fault.
“This house always blowing [light] bulbs. Three months ago, that whole box there was burning. We got a problem with [electricity] here. . . . I does got to buy bulbs every two weeks. The plugs ain’t working. These units want rewiring,” he said.
While pointing to a box that houses the electrical meters for the five units that make up his block, Odle complained that “the last time someone from [NHC] come and fix the box, they did the job halfway and left it.
“All they come and do was put on a piece of electrical tape and left it exposed,” he said, while reporting that as a result of a fire, which had broken out in the box three months ago, the NHC had bypassed the main breakers and ran electricity directly to the unit.
Efforts to reach NHC General Manager Lanette Napoleon-Young for comment today were unsuccessful.
However, Minister of Housing Denis Kellman told Barbados TODAY that the NHC was in the process of carrying out an assessment the situation, while promising that Government would take whatever remedial action was necessary.
“I would first have to wait on my senior staff and the technocrats to advise on what is happening and the next steps . . . first we will have to have the incident investigated by fire officials and the police, but we have sent officers there to investigate. As you know we are doing the 20-year programme – the engineering work and all those things are being done right across the board and I will have to check to see how far advanced that is in this particular area. But the engineers are seeking to bring closure to these issues,” Kellman said.
Immediately following the 10 a.m. blaze, Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) candidate for the area Sandra Husbands had called on Government and the NHC to quickly resolve the problems facing the resident in the development, which is over 40 years old.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY as she assisted residents of the area in putting back contents into the partially-burnt unit, Husbands noted there had been similar fires in the neighbourhood in recent times, adding that she was fearful that an entire block would eventually go up in flames if the current problems were left unchecked.
“All the units need rewiring, but the problem is that if you change the wiring in one, apparently you cannot turn back on the electricity unless all are rewired. So, what you have a situation where any, if not all of these homes, could go at any minute.
“You are getting complaints from the residents, especially on evenings, maybe they have the lights on, they have the television on . . . when you use an appliance, you hear sparking and you see sparks coming from the sockets . . . bulbs keep blowing. What that indicates is that the electrical system is at the breaking point.
“I want to appeal to Government, I want to appeal to the NHC . . . . We need to address this problem before people lose more of their property or someone loses their life,” Husbands said.
This evening Barbados TODAY also spoke to the parliamentary representative for St James South Donville Inniss, who echoed many of the sentiments expressed by Kellman. He also said that arrangements were being made to assist the fire victims, including the seven-year-old.
“I have requested a skip that should be on site this evening so they can start the clean up process. I spoke to Denis Kellman and management at the NHC who will from tomorrow be deploying a team to help with the clean up and start effecting repairs to the property. . . . [Also] after speaking with minister Kellman, probably from as early as tomorrow, electricians can come onsite and look at what needs to be done, not just to that unit, but the entire block.
Inniss also acknowledged the need for electrical upgrades stating that “many of these buildings are perhaps over 30 years old and have not been upgraded in terms of electrical and plumbing works over the time.
“A lot is happening now at a time when the corporation is challenged with financial resources, but the NHC is on top of the matter. Arrangements are being made to replace the furniture that was lost in the fire, along with some of the clothing and other supplies that are needed. Those things we are working on as we speak and will be back in place in a few days once the repairs have been effected,” he assured Barbados TODAY.