Member of Parliament for St Michael Central Arthur Holder believes the time has come for Barbados to “put aside homes for tragedies”.
He was speaking in the wake of two house fires within a 12-hour timeframe. One of the blazes affected his 66-year-old constituent Anthony Gall, of Savannah Road, Bush Hall, St Michael.
The blaze destroyed the unoccupied and uninsured property around 1 p.m. on Thursday. Another house was also damaged, leaving its occupants searching for alternative living arrangements with Holder’s assistance.
“I think the time has come for us to basically segment and put aside homes for tragedies. I think this has shown the urgent need for us to address this situation and it has to be done; where we can set aside a number of homes in the event of displacement. The sooner we can do that the better for persons.
“Tragedies like this invoke, encourage us, extort us to find remedies to assist vulnerable persons, especially when it comes to natural disasters. This is a classic example and we need to address this with a degree of urgency so that we can assist persons who are displaced with immediacy. That is my hope and that is my plea to the Minister of Housing and I hope that he hears my plea for my constituents,” Holder stated.
The MP, who is also Speaker of House of Assembly, said measures were needed to address the issue of insurance coverage for owners of chattel houses with little fiscal space.
“There needs to be some level of urgency in relation to uninsured homes. It has become norm to see chattel houses uninsured and then when catastrophe strikes it is chaotic.
“I think, oftentimes, with chattel houses, people would like to insure but they do not possess the means. We need to address it with some degree of urgency because here it is you have an uninsured house, all the contents are gone, then how do you start? I think something needs to be done and done with some degree of alacrity so as to bring all the stakeholders together to find a solution to assist persons who would love to insure but do not possess the financial means to so do,” he added.
Gall, meanwhile, disclosed that he had been residing at Military Road, St Michael for the better part of a year after the roof of his Savannah residence was damaged in a storm.
He said he was shocked that he had now lost everything to the blaze.
“I move from here over a year ago but I had some electrical things in there like radios, TVs, microwave, stuff like that. I was home just doing some work and . . . a little man from in the area come and tell me the house on fire…. I mean electricity was turn off, I pull off the fuse boxes over a year ago and the water . . . and I had my fridge in there, beds and some of my clothes, furniture and stuff like that and everything gone like that shock me,” Gall added
He also disclosed that someone kept breaking into the unoccupied structure.
“I don’t know what was the reason. Anyhow, this is the last results of everything. I stand a real great loss . . . ,” he added.
Fire officer Patrick Edwards, who is acting Divisional Officer at the Central Division, responded to the blaze with six other colleagues and two water tenders from the Bridgetown fire Station.
The other damaged house is not “livable” at this point, the fireman said.
“I have made recommendations that the person should really seek alternative accommodation until we are sure that it will be okay for them to occupy the house after some degree of security and repair,” he stated.
The other house fire occurred just after midnight on Wednesday, at Berbice Road, Fitts Village, St James.
The residence of 75-year-old Reginald Best, which three people occupied, was gutted. A car was also destroyed and a second house damaged. Best’s property was insured.
“I can’t tell you what happen. I can only tell you what I see. A blaze come through the top and quick time so everything was flat and that’s all I can tell you. The fire start from in the roof and I don’t know what would have caused that at all,” said Best, who had been living at the location since 1968.
Lynda Griffith, constituency assistant to St James Central MP Kerrie Symmonds, was at the scene offering moral support.
“In our utmost abilities we will try as much as we can to give him the moral support that he needs at this present moment to make sure he is taken care of and has some place to rest and be at peace tonight,” she said.
Democratic Labour Party candidate Paul Gibson who is seeking to represent the area, was also at the scene offering support to the family.