Trinidad Guardian:- A Cedros businessman suffered more than $4.5 million in losses after his house and business were destroyed in a fire which also damaged two neighbouring houses.
In total eleven people, including businessman Brian Austin, his wife, four children, his Venezuelan friend, his wife and two children, and his sister-in-law, have been displaced.
The cause of the fire, which broke out around 3.30 pm on Saturday upstairs Austin’s house at Bonasse Village, Cedros, is yet to be determined.
However, the fire has sparked renewed calls by councillor Shankar Teelucksingh and villagers for a fire tender and ambulance to be assigned to the fishing village.
Austin, his wife, Lisa Boodoo-Austin, and four boys—his eldest son, age 16, is autistic, and his ten-year-old son suffers from brain seizures—lived downstairs the house where he also operated his garment and haberdashery business.
His two other boys are ages 14 and five.
Austin, a chief marine engineer, said he was with his ten-year-old son in Point Fortin when his wife phoned him with the tragic news.
He said, “Her sister (who lives upstairs) started smelling something and she said when she get up and walk, she in the second to last bedroom, she just see fire coming out of the front bedroom. I just change the roof about three months ago and we use this heat proofing thing.”
He said she, along with his Venezuelan friend and his wife, and two children, ages 16 and three, who also lived upstairs, ran out of the house.
Austin said his wife and three boys, who were downstairs, also scampered to safety. Neither the house nor the business was insured. “I have to start over from scratch,” lamented Austin.
He said his Venezuela friend, who was granted political asylum because of the crisis in his country, lost all their belongings and documents. Another next door neighbour, Rupert Smith, 71, suffered minor burns while trying to keep the fire from spreading to his house.
The windows, guttering and tanks were damaged by the raging flames.
Another neighbour, Veena Ali, 72, president of the Cedros Village Council, recalled how she prayed and cried because she thought her house was also going to be destroyed. The fire damaged her roof and windows. Thankful to the fire-fighters and community for their help, she, however, appealed to the authorities to assign a fire appliance in the area.
Also making a similar call, Teelucksingh said it took an hour for the small fire appliance to arrive from Point Fortin.
He said, “The hose that they were trying to wet (sic) was leaking. They ran out of water. When they went to the hydrant which is approximately where the centre is, the water pressure was low.”
He said a Petrotrin emergency team arrived around 5.30 pm, but by then the fire was under control. He complained that the two larger tenders at the fire station are under repairs and there is only one hydrant in Bonasse.
He called on the authorities to reinstate plans, which was shelved in 2015, to build a fire station in Cedros. “In the interim have one fire tender be located at the Security Complex in Cedros and an ambulance as a first responder.”
He said it was only by God’s Grace that there have been no fatal fires in recent years.