Just over a month after a fire razed about 50 homes in the shantytown known as The Mudd another fire broke out early Sunday, March 4, destroying more than 30 structures, and displacing over 90 people.
The fire, which is said to have started around 1:30 a.m., blazed for almost three hours and Chief Superintendent Kevin Mortimer, officer in charge of the Abaco district, said police and volunteer firefighters were able to bring it under control by 4 a.m.
It is unknown to police what caused the fire, and investigations continue. “Investigations are ongoing and we are asking anyone who may have any information to kindly provide the same to police to advance our investigation,” Mortimer said.
There was no loss of life or reported injuries.
Central and South Abaco MP James Albury said police, defense force officers and social services workers, as well as volunteers from the Bahamas Red Cross registered people who were displaced.
The nearby Seventh Day Adventist church was established as a shelter for them, though it was noted that no one took advantage of the assistance.
To get a “comprehensive view and idea of what we are facing here,” Mr. Albury conducted a walkthrough on March 6 of the newly burnt area along with various heads of departments, including the Police and Defence Force, and Works and Environmental Health.
“We’re looking at a myriad of problems. We are looking not only at the human problem, but the health a safety issues to not only this community, but to the wider Marsh Harbour area.”
Mr. Albury said “There will be a follow through with the policies set by the Prime Minister, including the prevention of reconstruction and re-habitation of the burned-out areas.”
“It will be inspected and cleared off, and a physical barrier will be erected to prevent any further encroachment,” he added.
He said that it was noted during his walkthrough that there was “flagrant reconstruction” happening around the burned-out areas. He said that the Ministry of Works along with Police and Defence Force will act to stop construction and where necessary have the structure demolished.
“We have the existing laws in place, and we have to enforce them,” he said.
Mr. Albury said that the Ministry of Works will have the support it needs from various agencies to carry out the work that needs to be done in the area.
He noted that the discovery of generators which supplied a number of homes with electricity “was a bit shocking” and said it is “amazing that a mini power plant exists right here and the immense danger it poses, not only to the structures they are connected to, but to the people residing here.”
“It poses a tremendous risk to everybody, and it is a flagrant violation of the law and that needs to be addressed,” he said.
“What we have is an incredibly hazardous and unsafe scenario – a literal powder keg – this isn’t good for anybody. It’s not good for the people who live here; it’s not good for Bahamians or other persons who live outside the area; it’s not good for the new generations that are being brought up in this environment. This is not a sustainable or healthy situation for anybody.”
He said it is a situation that requires “big solutions”, adding that it will take a concerted effort by government and the community at large to deal with this generational issue.”
Mr. Albury said that the shanty town is “our problem, and to divvy up blame would be foolish and doesn’t help anybody.”
He said the key is working in tandem with everyone to address the issue.
In late January, nearly 60 homes were destroyed in a fire that raged for nearly three hours.
It was later found that arson was the cause of the fire.
Albury Alfred, 42, was charged last month in relation to the incident.