Soufriere Blaze Still Under Investigation.
A DOLLAR value has yet to be placed on the damage caused by the Soufriere fire of Thursday night however it is said to be immense, according to Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation by the fire department. Officers attached to the department were on the site prior to press time yesterday, according to reports from Soufriere.
“Our investigating team is still working on what could have caused the fire,” a source close to the investigation said.
THE VOICE also learned that investigators are presently compiling the value of damages of each of the buildings destroyed and their respective contents.
Also being assessed is the cost of those buildings and their contents that were partially damaged.
“We are trying to get individual and collective values. Some of the owners of those buildings are not here,” our source said.
The fire, the biggest in Soufriere since 1955 came at a time when businesses, small and large, were preparing for the Christmas season by stocking up on merchandise.
“This could not have happened at a worst time…,” said Prime Minister Anthony, citing the proximity to the Christmas season.
Initial assessment by the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) states that six dwelling houses were completely destroyed and one was partially damaged. Also destroyed were six commercial buildings. Four businesses were partially destroyed as well.
Ten families are homeless as a result of the fire. Several of those families are unemployed.
This situation has spurred an appeal for help from the Prime Minister who said it would be a huge task to rebuild this corner of Soufriere that holds so many memories for so many people.
“The loss is immense and requires a collective response. The government will assist families to rebuild their homes. This, of course, will be after the assessments by the Saint Lucia Fire Service to determine the value of the properties and their contents; in the interim the needs are great. I call on all Saint Lucians to give generously, so we can bring comfort to those affected,” the Prime Minister noted in a release from his office.
He said that from losing all their possessions, many of the fire victims were on the breadline.
According to the Prime Minister the government will soon launch an appeal to assist those affected by the fire.
“I want to reassure the people of Soufriere that we will work with them; we will find solutions with them, we will not abandon them in this hour of distress,” the Prime Minister while visiting the scene of the fire.
Commerce Minister, Emma Hippolyte noted the vulnerability of small businesses in her take on the fire. She referred to a young lady who had invested all her life’s savings in her shop which was destroyed by the fire and who felt that her business was under insured, and to a gentleman who spent about $100,000 on goods stored in a warehouse that she said was not insured.
“This is an issue that we need to discuss openly and see how best we can cause small businesses to understand the risks and how they could mitigate against these risks,” Hippolyte said.