Soufriere no stranger to fire
The Soufriere Fire. June 9th, 1955
On the evening of Corpus Christi, on another Thursday in 1955, 70 years ago at about seven-thirty in the evening, someone had left a pot unattended in a two-storey wooden house between the Soufriere Hospital and the Presbytery. The house burst into flames and with it one closely situated neighbour after another began to be consumed. The wooden structures fed a fire that raged uncontrollably throughout the town.
In spite of the heroic efforts of the collective fire crews, almost half of the town was completely destroyed. The fire destroyed 387 houses and left over 2400 residents homeless. Fortunately, only one person died as a result of the fire…Mrs. Madalene Mercier who died from shock.
The morning after the fire, Friday, June 10th, government officials, the Red Cross and other volunteers arrived in Soufriere to help the fire stricken community. Within days of the calamity, there was construction of temporary housing, the restoration of public facilities and a mass inoculation to prevent a typhoid epidemic.
Less than a week later, the tragedy was raised on the floor of the House of Commons in London:
House of Commons Debate 15 June 1955 vol 542 cc11-2W 11W
ST. LUCIA (SOUFRIERE FIRE)
52. Sir R. Robinson asked the Secretary of State what damage was done and how many people were rendered homeless by the recent fire at Soufriere in St. Lucia; and what steps have been taken to provide immediate relief in this area.
Mr. Hopkinson Three hundred and eighty-seven buildings, or about three-fifths of the town, were destroyed. It is estimated that some 2,400 people were made homeless. The St. Lucia Government, with valuable help from the local Red Cross and other voluntary workers, are doing everything they can to relieve distress . Food and temporary shelter have been arranged and precautions taken to safeguard health. Public utility services have been restored.
The Governments, the local Red Cross Societies and the public of neighbouring territories, and the British Red Cross, have responded to the Acting Governor’s appeal with prompt and generous offers of help. Some relief supplies have already arrived by air. I feel sure that the whole House will wish my right hon. Friend to convey their sympathy with the victims of this disaster.