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Pyroclastic flows down Tar River and out to sea - prior to June 25

It could have been avoided

(See articles of July 4, 1997 following fatalities from Soufriere Hills volcano) Navigate to 1997 – 4th July

By Bennette Roach

Windy Hill and Streatham, Farrells etc.

In every tragic disaster like this, when people die and especially, where elapsed time is involved, certainly questions must be asked, why did it happen? Could it have been avoided? Can it happen again?

Each day the scientists deliver reports that are carefully written and delivered as we understand, after consensus opinion by those concerned. In themselves they are great and in addition, following a great sense of desire and belief that the public should be more informed and educated, the scientists, not too long ago began appearing sometimes twice a day to give MVO updates and answer a question or two from the announcer on duty at ZJB. In addition to this there have been other programs, some call-in and otherwise.

This is what former head scientist Lloyd Lynch had to say quite some while ago, attempting to initiate a more positive information program: “It is a three-way affair, the public, scientists and the managing authorities. They have to work hand in hand. As far as the public is concerned when it is time to take evasive action, the public will find it hard to do, because it involves the initiation of some kind of action that will lead to further hardship.

“So the public has to be motivated in some way to go in the same direction in which you are going. The thing that will provide the motivation is a clearer understanding of what is happening, so we need to provide the information at all times and make sure that it is not ambiguous. Sometimes even the person who is giving the message is important.”

But something was always lacking, although the scientists were always available for interview, attempts to get discussion with them on radio with other interested parties, were always ignored and their desire as well as others to have some television program that would put more clearly into the minds of the public, the relation of the volcano to the rest of the island, the serious dangers of ignoring the scientists’ explanations and warnings, have always been ignored and given very little priority.

Governor Frank Savage had this to say about the matter. “I do share the concern. I do believe that the MVO has got footage which could have made a greater impact on the community.”

Indeed it was pointed out by the Governor, that one could not force people to move away from the danger areas, and so he made references to criticisms, according to him, “for using language, which locally people thought was insensitive, because I was trying to raise the profile of the danger. The Chief Minister did say that he would consider using more than persuasion to move people.”

The Chief Minister on the other hand said: “It is true that education and information of all kinds help. I think the reason why most people went back into their homes or stayed in their homes, is because they themselves had an inward feeling that it would not occur where they were. Not that they were not aware of the danger. They felt it would not happen again, that it would happen somewhere else.

“I am not saying that if there were more pictures, more presentations, it would not have been better, sure more information would be better.”

On Monday, scientist, Dr. Angus Miller answered my question on the education and information issue saying, “Certainly it would be a great advantage if people can see what happened on Wednesday. I think it really hasn’t sunk in to people what happened and how the face of Montserrat has changed. We’ve been expressing for many months in fact, that we would like to have more routes to get information out, to try and persuade people exactly what’s going on with the volcano, and we will support any effort to improve that service.”

Pyroclastic flows down Tar River and out to sea – prior to June 25

All agree, even the Chief Minister, though to a lesser degree, agreed that more could have been done or the effect would have been different if more explicit attempts were made to convince people of the fatal dangers that existed. So how difficult would if have been, since the footage is available, to show some of this to the people with the scientists explaining and pointing things and places out periodically.

Chief Minister Bertrand Osborne debated that he will agree that not enough may have been done, but not that nothing was done. So, What’s the difference? half good is not good enough.

Could it have been that personalities got in the way? One thing it wasn’t for want of funding like some pretended, that had been taken care of. Could it have been bureaucracy, copyrights or just lack of interest. Or is it just another example of ‘don’t tell them everything’, we’ve told them enough. On two other occasions the CM could not, or would not, address the off-island evacuation plan, could not say he would publish it, or where it was, or whether it even existed other than in someone’s head. On the HMS Liverpool, the captain having called a press conference, gave insights from his end of how some things would go.

We know it was not on the part of the scientists, they did everything else. If it couldn’t get going here, who will doubt Antigua’s willingness to contribute.

There is a saying’ ‘seeing is believing’ and it does make a difference, especially when lives are at stake. Until now, it is true that there have always been warnings about the dangers, but except for National Geographic and some other TV shows, done in a way that suits their American audience. I have seen videos simulating what can happen to villages and towns, but these were private showings and although I suggested these be shown to the general public, we have never been fortunate enough. That is shameful.

There were other reasons people chose to ignore warnings, like refusing to go in shelters, but bearing in mind the suggestions made by scientist Lloyd Lynch, warnings were just not enough.

 

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(L-R) Moses Kirkconnell (PPM), Alden McLaughlin (PPM), McKeeva Bush (CDP), Roy Tatum (PPM official), Austin Harris (IND), Dr Joseph Marzouca (CDP official), Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, Governor Helen Kilpatrick and Eugene Ebanks (CDP)

Cayman General Elections – Result in National Unity Government

Governor confirms government of ‘National Unity’

 

(L-R) Moses Kirkconnell (PPM), Alden McLaughlin (PPM), McKeeva Bush (CDP), Roy Tatum (PPM official), Austin Harris (IND), Dr Joseph Marzouca (CDP official), Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, Governor Helen Kilpatrick and Eugene Ebanks (CDP)

Cayman Islands (CNS) (Adapted) – General elections were held in the Cayman Islands on May 24,  2017. They were the first elections held after electoral reforms approved in a 2012 referendum, which introduced single member constituencies. The People’s Progressive Movement remained the largest party, winning seven of the 19 seats. (See Election Results table)
Reporting on this General Election which resulted in proceedings not unfamiliar to Montserrat, was overtaken by other local, world and regional events and circumstances, and then UK General Elections — Following a very mixed result in the first ever election in the Cayman Islands under the system of ‘one man, one vote’ in which no party, group or alliance has enough seats to form a government, a second attempt at putting together a potential coalition administration that was cobbled together just before midnight on Friday and which would have put former premier McKeeva Bush back at the helm of government was reportedly on shaky ground by Saturday morning.

Various unverified sources suggested that veteran independent MPs, Ezzard Miller and Arden McLean, are not entirely enamoured of the idea of propping up Bush as leader. They appeared to be looking to shape another potential cabinet line-up that could see Bush maneuvered into the speaker’s chair or off the government frontline altogether.

The possibility of a new mix of the independents on the front bench, or an ‘eastern alliance’ with the former incumbent People’s Progressive Movement (PPM), was beginning to emerge.

Meetings were reportedly taking place in hotels in Grand Cayman on Saturday and, in a third possible government deal so far at the weekend, another compromise was being discussed to secure an Independent-PPM alliance that could see deputy premier and tourism minister Moses Kirkconnell as the new premier.

McKeeva  Bush front and centre, with Ezzard Miller and Arden McLean in the back

 (CNS): Cayman Islands Governor Helen Kilpatrick has confirmed that Alden McLaughlin, the leader of Progressives, has enough support to form a government with him at the helm and the former opposition leader, McKeeva Bush, as speaker after the two political leaders went to meet with her Monday. There are no further details yet about who will be in Cabinet and on the government backbench or who will lead the opposition benches, as there has been no official word from the politicians involved, but Swearing In Day is now set for Wednesday.

As they say, a week is a long time in politics and the week since the election is not over yet, so anything can happen, but as it stands at present the government benches will only include two independents because others who were offered seats at the government table from the various fractions of independent members elected last Wednesday have refused to serve under McLaughlin.

Nevertheless, with seven PPM members returned to the LA and supported by Tara Rivers, McLaughlin has the largest solid group and has been able to pull together a coalition.

Following the meeting with the politicians, Kilpatrick said in a release that Monday afternoon she met with elected representatives Alden McLaughlin, McKeeva Bush, Moses Kirkconnell, Austin Harris and Captain Eugene Ebanks. “Mr McLaughlin provided me with evidence that he had sufficient support to form a ‘Government of National Unity’.”

She added, “Accordingly, I have signed the proclamation to a call a session of the Legislative Assembly for 10:00am Wednesday, 31st May 2017 for the purposes of swearing in all newly elected and appointed members of the Legislative Assembly, voting for a premier pursuant to section 49 (3) of the Constitution of the Cayman Islands, and other attendant matters. Mr McLaughlin has indicated that he will be seeking election to the position of premier and Mr Bush to speaker of the House.”

Table of Elections

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20 Years June 25, 1997

20 Years June 25, 1997

A long overdue remembrance, emphasising healing and commitment

Memorial Services to remember June 25, 1997 deaths

On this Sunday, June 25, 2017 the Hon. Premier installed a committee to organize a 20th Year Remembrance ceremony of the 19 persons who died during the tragic event of volcanic activity on June 25, 1997. A plaque displaying the names of the victims, will be unveiled at the main service at the Cultural Centre and installed at the National Museum immediately after. (See Invitation to all in this Special Edition and on TMR Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/themontserratreporter/

Memorial Services and Fundwww.montserratreporter.org – July 16, 1997

Devastation in the village of Harris’

There were two memorial services held last week: one on Sunday afternoon and another on Tuesday afternoon, the day which was set aside as a national day of mourning.

Offices were officially asked to close at two o’clock on Tuesday, in honour of those persons who lost their lives or are still missing, though believed to be dead, in the tragic pyroclastic flows of Wednesday, June 25, 1997. The flows descended on villages from Streatham, Windy Hill, Harris, Farms Bethel, Spanish Pointe through Trants on the northeast and eastern end of the island, completely destroying some of them.

Both services were well attended by government dignitaries and officials, as well as family members of the dead and missing and the public in general.

Plans are being put in place to establish a fund for families of the victims of last week’s pyroclastic flow. This was put in motion with the offering that was taken up at the services.

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Home demolished by the power and volume of the flow

THE VOLCANO and DEATH

Below is the same area two weekes before

Devastation in the village of Harris’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the conditions the British Governor of Montserrat and the local Government never wanted to exist, is that they would ever have to report that lives were lost as a direct result of volcanic activity in Montserrat.

On the night of July 18, 1995, residents not far away from Soufriere Hills could hear what they later described as roaring sounds like those that come from jet planes, and it was soon realised by all that a volcano that lay in waiting at English Crater in Soufriere Hills had come alive.

Soon after from several and continuous radio broadcasts, and interviews from scientists, the Governor and the Chief Minister, his office and the offices of the Emergency Operating Centre (EOC), we were to learn that there has always been this volcano, that there have been activities at approximately 30 – 35 year intervals since the turn of this century; that there has been studies, one as recent as the mid 80s, which suggested that there will be serious activities around this time.

No attention whatever was paid to these facts and so here we were in July, less than a month under two years ago, with an erupting volcano and every resident as ignorant as ever to the dangers that this could pose for Montserrat. Since that time it has been a down hill battle, which may has not yet culminated, but which has now directly claimed the lives of at least 10 people with more almost certain to be confirmed, when the ash becomes cool enough to be cleared in some way.

Home demolished by the power and volume of the flow

June 25, 1997 will be long remembered as the worst day of the volcano (I hope), because lives were lost. And the question that is being asked, “Could this have been avoided?” Amazingly, the homes in Long Ground are still standing untouched but for the September 17 last year’s eruption. It may well be that the Tar River valley is their protection or perhaps it is early yet.

MVO Reports

The Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) report for that morning read as follows: The latest earthquake swarm has just reached a peak, with 4 or 5 earthquakes occurring every minute. At the time of highest activity, the hybrid earthquakes could more accurately be described as continuous tremor. There have been several small pyroclastic flows in Mosquito Ghaut in the last hour. Observations of the dome last night showed that the top of Mosquito Ghaut is the only active area of the dome at the moment, as the focus of activity has switched from the eastern side to the north in the last few days.

Further pyroclastic flow activity is expected, and the high level of activity means that these flows could happen at any time and be larger than before. The current area of activity makes Mosquito Ghaut the most likely pathway, but further flows in Gages, Tuitt’s or Tar River are probable as well.”

The following recently became a standard part of the report: Bramble Airport remains operational, but the public are reminded that it is open only for essential travel purposes. The sirens will be tested as usual this afternoon.”

Now following is the evening report following the disaster: “An intense swarm of hybrid earthquakes began at 11 am, and rapidly escalated to repetitive events which merged into continuous tremor after 12:15 p.m. At about 1 p.m. major pyroclastic flow activity began in Mosquito Ghaut, which generated an ash cloud to over 30,000 ft within minutes. The flow traveled into Farms River to Trants Bridge. Down river of Bramble the flows fanned out into Bethel and Spanish Point almost to the sea. On the northern side Farms and Trants villages were affected, and the surge reached to Trants bridge. A total of at least 2 square kilometers of land was covered by the pyroclastic flow and surge.

The lower half of Harris village was also impacted, and an ash surge traveled from the Farrell’s area down to the west at least as far as Dyers, and into the upper reaches of Dyer’s Ghaut. There was no activity in the Gages valley during the afternoon.

During the time of the reported activities above, there were people tending their animals and gardens in the Farrell’s and surrounding areas, some of whom perished; there were people in Harris’ and areas way down to Trants, Bethel and Spanish Pointe, Bramble village etc. who were either visiting their properties or living there. Except for those properties on the perimeter of Mosquito Ghaut in Harris’, individuals were able to avoid the fury of the ash surge from the flow by moving to even higher grounds, but not those in the other areas which were all on lower ground and not far from the ghaut which became more shallow as it nears the sea.

So that just as the report above described, confirmed by the eye witness account of Roy ‘Slim’ Daley from Bramble village who was in Harris’ at the time. He said: “I saw the surges coming back up the hill from the pyroclastic flows, which moved at incredible speed down towards Farms and Trants, breaking over the walls at Brambles and rushing down towards Spanish Pointe through Bethel.”

Fatalities

Soon we were to hear the calls of the authorities for persons to advise them of persons who were known to have been in the areas for one reason another. Both the Governor and the Chief Minister appeared on radio to tell the nation about the rescue efforts that were underway, never admitting then that there might be fatalities following the activities.

But having seen the results of the forerunning pyroclastic flows, I was certain that the persons who I discovered were in their homes or in the area, had met an unfortunate end.

Other than the sketchy and well monitored reports that came from Government Information Unit (GIU) and ZJB, the rest of the local media was reduced to press conferences which were cut short and severely limited by interviewees who gave much too long answers, having been denied views from the helicopter or access to the area other than the rest of the general public was entitled to.

By the end of the following day, the admission of fatalities was announced and the count grew each day from four to ten by Monday. It was on Saturday when the CM came close to saying that there may be more dead who are still difficult to get to because of the still searing hot ash that lay deposited on the ground.

THE DISASTER

Helicopters involved in the search and rescue missions

I was finally afforded a trip to look at the damage done on Wednesday by EMAD, on a helicopter which is one of four helicopters brought in from different sources to aid the ‘search and rescue’ effort.

The trip was not like any I’ve had and did not afford me the opportunity for detail as I rode with David Brandt and 2 others, plus Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU) camera man and video cameras. with another from Trinidad. It was only a 20-minute trip, far too short.

However, the devastation is much greater than I imagined. The lands (forest) between Tuitts and Mosquito Ghaut is no more. Although not filled with material the pyroclastic was extremely powerful as it left the volcano and that’s when the surge immediately went over Farrells and down Streatham and accross Windy Hill. The Farrells estate house is completely gone and so is Mandy’s garage on the corner below the grave yard. The flow went through the bottom of Windy Hill and well across and into the ghaut beyond.

Escapee

One eye witness woman who escaped and who eventually went back to collect money she left in a vehicle, found it, but had walked through Water Works, retracing her steps to get to it. She said she had to go reap the carrots, because she was under so much pressure from government to supply vegetables to shelters.

She got the money but the vehicle she had to leave. She described the flow that she saw as like “sweet oil” running down the hill, noting how the flow backed up when the heat seemed to separate from the flow.

Looking down on the Harris’ road Mosquito ghaut is next to it. The surge reached across the road to the Police Station and burnt all those houses including the Church. These were not completely demolished but nevertheless destroyed, from the Morgan’s house down the hill towards farm, then there is one mass of destruction down through Farms, Bethel, Spanish Pointe, Trants.

Since that of course more flows and reports have stated that more damage was done in Harris’. I could see the walls of some of the houses in Farms, Bramble village and Spanish Pointe, but it is obvious that truly there may be about 10 feet of material lying on the lands.

Trants village was completely demolished, hardly recognised any walls standing and it did seem such a vast area.

I saw how the flow over Farrells ran down and into the top of Belham.

I can now report that for Plymouth, we can expect worse to come along, it already looks a disaster. The flows that have been going down Gages and Fort Ghaut seemed to have damaged houses high up on the Gages corner and down the fringes of the ghaut. The Catholic convent and infant school and even the Church are now like the rest of the property in that vicinity are now in line for certain disaster as long as flows continue. At the foot of Gages mountain, the ghauts as I can remember are somewhat shallow, so that serious flows are likely to spread early over to Amersham as it has reportedly done.

I hardly had time for any detail or even good photographs as I was shooting through the helicopter sealed windows. Looking at the photographs, I do not remember where the various scenes are, and I was unable to make notes.

The helicopters are being operated from Geralds and joining them is that from the British navy ship.

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tower-firefighters.jpg

Grenfell Tower fire: council officials ‘yet to respond to more than 130 offers to rehouse victims’

 ‘There is no lack of volunteers or of offers to help – just lack of coordination and organisation’

The Independent Online

Kensington and Chelsea Council and the borough’s tenant management organisation have yet to respond to more than 130 offers to rehouse people who were forced to leave their homes after the Grenfell Tower fire, according to a volunteer helping the relief efforts.

Michal Nachmany offered to host six victims and compiled a list of people willing to put up dispossessed families. 

But after submitting the details to both the council and its tenant management organisation, the London School of Economics researcher said that neither had replied to her offers to help those displaced by the fire, which claimed the lives of at least 58 people.  

“I know that the emails were received (verified by phone), but I don’t know if any action has been taken,” Ms Nachmany told The Guardian.

“Hearing that people are still sleeping on the floor, rather than at least spending the first few days with host families is heartbreaking and outrageous. For example, I offered to host six people. 

“Never heard from anyone, and I doubt if any matchmaking was done between the local offers and the people in need. 

“There is no lack of volunteers or of offers to help – just lack of coordination and organisation.”

Ms Nachmany said she has no idea if any of the offers have been sent on to displaced residents in north Kensington – but council officials insist “all residents of Grenfell Tower who have requested help have been placed in hotels”.

 “We are now looking to source interim accommodation for those Grenfell Tower residents and also trying to assist, where possible, elderly and vulnerable residents from surrounding areas who have been unable to return to their homes due to the safety cordon,” they said in a statement. 

“We plan to house residents of Grenfell Tower as locally as we can.  But we may well need help from our close neighbours. We want to rehouse people in a good home as quickly as we can. The Council is committed to looking after the immediate and longer-term housing needs of all those affected by the fire.”

Residents complained two years ago about the refurbishment of the building being done “using cheap materials” and workmanship that “cut corners”, they told The Independent.

They later claimed that Conservative-led council, owner of the building consumed by fire on Wednesday, had done nothing to address their concerns.

Numerous survivors of the inferno have claimed the exterior cladding – said to be a cheaper and more flammable than another available option to the supplier – was linked to the way the fire spread so rapidly up the outside of the tower.

Minutes from an emergency residents’ meeting held on 17 March 2015 show that more than 100 people living in the block produced a long list of issues about the refurbishment.

Problems raised by residents included “grave concerns at standard of works inside a number of residents’ properties”

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Premier Michael Dunkley (C) announcing the general election will be on July 18, 2017

Bermuda premier calls general election on July 18

Premier Michael Dunkley (C) announcing the general election will be on July 18, 2017

HAMILTON, Bermuda — The next general election in Bermuda will be on July 18, Premier Michael Dunkley announced on Thursday evening.
The premier, joined at the ruling One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) headquarters by his Cabinet colleagues, ended weeks of speculation by confirming that he has gained assent from the governor, John Rankin, for the writ of election that will be officially gazetted on Friday.
The announcement came in the wake of a statement from the leader of the opposition, Progressive Labour Party (PLP), David Burt, challenging Dunkley to announce a date for new elections, or face a motion of no confidence on Friday in the House of Assembly, with two OBA founding members now both sitting as independents after quitting the ruling party, thereby rendering it a minority government.

However, Dunkley disputed suggestions that his hand had been forced by the impending motion against him, saying he had contemplated five different dates for the election.

“Two have passed, two are in the future, and this is the one that matters – I have called it,” he said.

One of the reasons for favouring July was the presence of students back home on holiday, he said.

An election manifesto is to be published in a couple of weeks’ time. Meanwhile, Dunkley spoke out against negative campaigning, saying that “people in Bermuda do not like divisive politics – political parties are distrusted for that approach”.

Earlier Thursday, Burt said the British territory had “suffered” under a government that had “divided us and ignored the needs of too many”.

“For our part, the PLP will continue to focus on bringing new, energetic and strong leadership that seeks to serve all Bermudians, not just the chosen few,” he said.

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US congressman Steve Scalise shot at Virginia baseball practice

A bullet hole in a window at the scene of the shooting
A bullet hole in a window at the scene of the shooting Senior US congressman Steve Scalise has been shot at a baseball practice in northern Virginia.

A congressional aide said Mr Scalise, who rallies Republican votes in the House of Representatives, was hit during the training session in Alexandria attended by up to 25 politicians, plus their staff, ahead of an annual game.

Fellow Republican Mo Brooks, representative for Alabama, said the majority whip from Louisiana was on the ground with “a hip wound”.

Video – Trump Monitoring Baseball Shooting (Wochit News)

Mr Brooks, who applied pressure to Mr Scalise’s injury, said the 51-year-old “crawled into the outfield, leaving a trail of blood”.

“He was dragging his body from the second base infield to the outfield to get away from the shooter while all this firing was going on,” he said.

A law enforcement official, who was not authorised to speak by name, said the shooting was being regarded as a criminal act and not an act of terrorism.

The White House has announced that a scheduled public appearance by Donald Trump on Wednesday will be cancelled as a result of the shooting.

Congressman Steve Scalise is said to have been hit during a shooting at a baseball practice Congressman Steve Scalise is said to have been hit during a shooting at a baseball practice

Mr Trump was scheduled to appear at the Department of Labour to sign an executive order.

Congressional activity was also curtailed and police said they would put in place a “robust police presence”.

Police confirmed the shooter was in custody.

Mr Brooks said other people were also shot, including two police officers.

Police chief Michael Brown said officers were on the scene within three minutes of receiving a call about the shooting at 7am (local time) and exchanged gunfire with the suspect.

Politicians from both US parties have offered condolences following the incident Politicians from both US parties have offered condolences following the incident

Republican Mike Bishop, from Michigan, said Mr Scalise was at second base when he was shot.

“I was looking right at him,” he told Detroit radio station WWJ. “He was a sitting duck.”

“We were doing batting practice,” said Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona.

“All of a sudden we heard a very loud shot. The gunman was over by the third base dugout with a clear view of the field.”

He said the gunman had “a rifle of some sort… a lot of ammo”.

Mr Scalise is said to be in a stable condition at George Washington University Hospital. Five people in total were taken to hospital for treatment.

Texas representative Roger Williams also reported that a member of his staff was shot at the practice.

Witness Katie Filous said she heard more than 20 shots while walking her dogs near the playing field.

She said the shooting went on for “quite a while”.

A police officer was hit by the gunman after he got out of a parked car and drew a handgun, according to Filous. She said the officer was then evacuated by helicopter.

Representative Brad Wenstrup told CBS News that he feared the violence could have been more serious.

“Fortunately secret service was here because Steve Scalise was here,” he said. “If they had not been here it would have been far worse.”

A law enforcement official said the FBI would be taking over the investigation. This is standard protocol in when federal officials are involved in attacks.

A statement issued by President Donald Trump said the situation was being monitored. “We are deeply saddened by this tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the members of Congress, their staffs, Capitol Police, first responders, and all others affected,” it said.

On Twitter, he described Mr Scalise as “a true friend and patriot” who was “badly injured but will fully recover”.

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Huge fire engulfs west London Grenfell Tower block

Families try to find one another as a number of fatalities is confirmed and firefighters try to rescue those who remain trapped.

 
Full story: Huge fire started nearly 12 hours or so ago – engulfs Grenfell Tower block – Sky story
By Sunita Patel-Carstairs and Aubrey Allegretti, News Reporters

At least six people have been killed – and others remain trapped – in a large fire on a west London estate being battled by more than 200 firefighters and 40 fire engines.

Hundreds of residents in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower have been evacuated from their flats in the burning building, and at least 70 people have been taken to five hospitals in the capital for treatment.

Witnesses described hearing screams, watching people jump out of the high-rise block and a baby being dropped out of a window and caught on the street below.

Fire at a tower block in Latimer Road
Image: Debris fell from the tower as it was engulfed by a huge inferno

Others told of seeing people shouting and waving from the windows for help, and residents shining torches from within as the inferno erupted in the dead of night.

Mahad, who escaped the fire-ravaged block, said the blaze began when his neighbour’s fridge exploded.

He told Sky News: “There was no alarm, there was no bell, there was no sense of urgency.

“My neighbour is the one who knocked on our door. He said it as his house where the explosion happened. He said his fridge had exploded.”

A structural engineer assessed the tower’s stability but judged the building was not in danger of collapsing.

Met Police Commander Stuart Cundy said: “I can confirm six fatalities at this time but this figure is likely to rise during what will be a complex recovery operation over a number of days.”

:: LIVE: Fire service chief confirms fatalities

Footage on social media showed the tower block engulfed in fire, with huge flames stretching over several floors.

The fire brigade said the fire had spread throughout the entire building, now covered in plumes of smoke with visible pockets of fire within the charred structure.

Mini explosions could be heard as the blaze shattered windows in the tower, while debris and ash fell to the ground.

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton described it as an “unprecedented incident”, something she had not seen in her 29 years of service.

The cause of the blaze is not yet known, but is being investigated, she added.

Firefighters have managed to reach the 20th floor as they continue searching for remaining survivors.

Any residents unaccounted for who escaped are being urged to contact the emergency services to reassure concerned loves ones.

Reporting from the scene in the immediate aftermath of the blaze, Sky News producer Dan Cairns said residents had been told that if they received calls for help from people inside, to tell them they needed to try and “self-evacuate”.

He said they had been told “to put a cloth over their mouths and try to get out by themselves”.

Actor and writer Tim Downie, who lives around 600 metres from the scene, said he feared the block could collapse.

He said: “It’s horrendous. The whole building is engulfed in flames. It’s gone. It’s just a matter of time before this building collapses. It’s the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen.

“People have been bringing water, clothes, anything they’ve got to help, out to the cordon. I have seen people coming out in their bedclothes – it’s just very distressing.”

Witness Samira Lamrani said she saw a woman try to save a baby by dropping it from a window “on the ninth or 10th floor”.

She said: “The windows were slightly ajar, a woman was gesturing that she was about to throw her baby and if somebody could catch her baby.

“Somebody did, a gentleman ran forward and managed to grab the baby.”

London Ambulance said it had sent a “number of resources” to the scene, including its Hazardous Area Response Team, after the fire was first reported at 12.54am.

It also confirmed 20 people are currently in critical care.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who is visiting the site, said “a lot of people” were unaccounted for and that of the 120 flats in Grenfell Tower, many had four-bedrooms.

He added that questions needed to be answered in relation to the blaze.

Prime Minister Theresa May said she was “deeply saddened” by the “tragic loss of life” and has called a cross-party meeting.

Joanna O’Connor, a local resident, told Sky News: “At about 2am I was woken up by screaming, sirens and helicopters. We came outside and were confronted with the building that was completely engulfed in flames.

“It was a real shock and there were hundreds of people lining the streets, we could still hear screaming from the building and people were milling around in shock, crying.

“One of our neighbours, her sister, husband and children were in the building, it was their neighbours’ flat that caught fire. So it’s very close to us, we’ve got neighbours whose families are in that building.”

Celeste Thomas lives across the road from the tower and said residents and families were “trying to find each other” following the evacuation.

She said: “Police have moved everyone back out of direct sight but I can hear cracking and debris falling.”

The tower block – which was refurbished internally and externally last year – is situated on the Lancaster West Estate, between Latimer Road Underground station and Westfield’s White City shopping centre.

Transport for London said there was no service between Hammersmith and Edgware Road on the Circle and Hammersmith and City lines, while the police said the A40 was closed in both directions, owing to the fire.

Nick Paget-Brown, leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, said several hundred people will have been in the tower when the fire broke out.

He said emergency centres have been set up for evacuated residents, and that the council is “providing as much support as we can”.

“Emergency services have set up a big cordon around the area, it’s quite hard to get accurate information but the council will be doing all it can.”

Grenfell Action Group said its warnings about safety fell on “deaf ears”.

In its blog post dated from November 2016, the group warned “only a catastrophic event” would expose the issues residents had with the building – including its one entry and exit and concerns about evacuation procedures.

Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick, chairman of the all-party Parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group, said the Government has resisted calls to install sprinkler systems in high-rise blocks in the wake of the 2009 Lakanal House tragedy.

Mr Fitzpatrick, who was a firefighter for 20 years, added: “There’s obviously a huge number of questions going to have to be asked about what happened.

“It’s a bit early to start pointing fingers, I would have thought.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury has urged the public to donate clothes, food and toiletries at St Clements Church for families displaced by the fire.

:: Anyone concerned for loved ones can call an emergency hotline on 0800 0961 233.

Posted in Featured, International, Local, News, Regional, Travel0 Comments

Rowley TVS

Prime Minister condemns attack on Roman Catholic priest

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jun 12, CMC – Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley Monday condemned the attack and robbery of a popular Roman Catholic priest, who has been working with young people to help rid Trinidad and Tobago of crime.

Father Clive Harvey was robbed at gunpoint as he prayed at the Holy Rosary/St. Martin’s, Church in East Port of-Spain by three men at around 6.00 am (local time) on Monday. Harvey is the parish priest there.

Rowley TVS
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley

In a statement, Prime Minister Rowley said that the attack on Father Harvey “by able-bodied, gun-toting men sadly represents the worst that exists within our communities.

“Notwithstanding what difficulties one may be facing in life there are limits beneath which the human form should not sink. Unfortunately, there are people who have chosen criminal conduct as a way of life and such persons, regardless of their circumstances, should be condemned in the strongest terms, as I so do now.”

Rowley said that these “miscreants have parents and I hope that somewhere in this country today there are a few parents who are hanging their heads in shame as they reflect in private as to what more they might have done to prevent any of our citizens from behaving in this despicable way”.

A statement issued by the Archdiocese of Port of Spain noted that Father Harvey was tied up and robbed by three men who threatened to kill him.

It said that the priest, who previously served as chaplain at the University of the West Indies (UWI) and parish priest in the volatile Laventille/Morvant area, and is actively involved in social and community programmes, had spent the night at the church to prepare for a seminar at the Seminary of the St John Vianney and the Uganda Martyrs, Mt St Benedict.

The statement said that Father Harvey was tied up while the men ransacked the presbytery and took TT$1,000 (One Tt dollar =US$0.16 cents), a mobile phone and other items.

“The assailants also threatened to kill the priest,” the statement noted, adding that the priest managed to escape and made his way to a parishioner’s home where he contacted Archbishop Joseph Harris and the police.

Posted in Crime, International, Local, News, Police, Regional0 Comments

guyana marijuana

Five detained in drug bust

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jun 12, CMC – Five people, including a woman, were arrested on Monday fter police intercepted a taxi and seized a quantity of marijuana.

guyana marijuanaIn a brief statement, the Guyana Police Force (GPF) said that bust occurred along the Aurora Public Road in Essequibo, when the car was stopped and searched.

The police said they were acting on a tip off and has not yet released the names of those arrested, including a taxi driver.

They said they found 25 taped parcels of the marijuana in a carton box in the car.  The five occupants were immediately arrested and taken in for questioning. They are expected to be charged later this week.

Posted in Crime, International, Local, News, Police, Regional0 Comments

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