Jamaica dump fire rages, hundreds sent to hospital

Source:Xinhua Published: 2015-3-17 15:07:38

A dump fire in Jamaica turned out to be a disaster as dozens of schools have been closed and hundreds of residents were sent to hospital due to respiratory problems.

The fire, started Wednesday on Riverton City Dump in the vicinity of Kingston, capital of the country, is still raging over the 120-acre open-air landfill.

The government activated a national response team with members from multiple sources Friday and since then the team has been working at the fire site around the clock.

Heavy-duty equipment was mobilized, and the Jamaica Defense Force was summoned, but so far the fire is till out of control.

Residents in Kingston spent the weekend under the blanket of smoke. They were advised to close the windows and doors, and remain at home as much as possible while the fire is being dealt with.

More than 50 schools have been closed and they were asked to stay closed until the situation improves.

Education Minister Ronald Thwaites said Monday that the Grade Six Achievement Test, which was scheduled for Thursday and Friday, has been postponed for a week.

"Of the 38,470 students scheduled to sit the examination over the two days, 11,675 are within the areas affected by fire, which involves 241 schools in Kingston, St. Andrew and St. Catherine," Thwaites said.

Not only school children are vulnerable to the toxic air, but also adults. Figures from the Health Ministry indicate some 642 residents in the vicinity of the fire site have visited the hospital, complaining respiratory problems in the past three days.

Commissioner of the Jamaica Fire Brigade Errol Mowatt asked residents to get prepared to even more smoke.

"The smoke cover is still very strong ... Once we begin to turn the material and begin to apply water, it gives off more smoke because the fire is not in a free burning phase, but in a smouldering phase and gives off more smoke," he explained.

The fire brigade commissioner said a probe into the cause of the fire is under way.

"We are not able to identify the individual or individuals involved, but based on our experiences, there had to be human intervention, for the fire had spread so quickly," said Mowatt.

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