Fifty-five homes were destroyed in an early morning blaze in the shantytown known as The Mudd on Sunday, January 28, 2018 leaving over 150 people without a home.
According to Chief Superintendent Kevin Mortimer, officer in charge of the Abaco district, the Police were notified of a fire around 6:15am at which time they contacted the Marsh Harbour Volunteer Fire and Rescue (MHVFR) service.
He said police and volunteer firefighters from several departments across Abaco responded and battled the blaze for over three hours.
“There was no loss of life,” he added.
He said a team from the Department of Social Services and other government and civic agencies were on the scene interviewing residents to determine how many homes were destroyed. He said it is believed that between 50 and 60 homes were lost.
Mr. Mortimer said that the Police suspect arson and that they have a man in custody for question in relation to the fire.
Co-Chief of the MHVFR, Jessica Cooke, said that the Fire Department received a call at about 6:20am and responded with three fire engines to the scene.
She said that additional departments from Casuarina, Bahama Palm and Treasure Cay were called in to assist as well as members from Hope Town Fire and Rescue.
She said that the Fire Department was hampered early on with gaining access to the area due to narrow inaccessible roads and electrical wires which are strewn from house to house, as well as facing throngs of people lining these passages trying to salvage items, some as large as beds, doors and windows.
She said that residents after some initial confusion were able to assist fire fighters pulling hoses to reach hot spots.
She said it was it was very difficult as fire fighters also faced thirty mile-an-hour breezes and the fear of unknown hazardous items inside homes.
She said they were able to bring the fire under control at by 10:30am and finished mopping up after that for almost another hour.
Central and South Abaco MP, James Albury noted the chaos that ensued in the blaze adding that “You have a lot of persons who are obviously, and rightly so, highly emotional.”
“They have just lost their homes and the majority of their possessions… Any sort of personal items are most likely gone, unless they have them on their backs at the time.
“You have a lot of people who are uncertain about the way forward, where they are going to live, what they are going to do. You have a lot of persons who are distraught, and rightly so. Now we are doing our very best to accommodate everyone and as many people as possible.”
Mr. Albury said there will be a focus to ensure homes are not rebuilt in the area.
“I can tell you precisely that, in my capacity, this is exactly a case in point of what happens when you have structures built like this, very closely together, and not built up to any sort of proper code or standard,” he said.
“We have to make sure that this does not happen again and that more unapproved buildings don’t go up in their place. That is very important, because we see exactly what happens when that is the case.”
Residents sought shelter at Mt Olive Church of God and Full Gospel Mission in the immediate aftermath as the Abaco Red Cross and Department of Social Services sent a plea for basic items to assist the victims, including food, water, clothes, school uniforms and supplies, and hygiene products.