OVER a dozen schools in the capital city were forced to close their doors and send pupils home yesterday as acrid smoke out of the Beetham Landfill continued to invade Port of Spain and its environs.
National Petroleum (NP) also advised yesterday that the company had once again been forced to vacate its Sea Lots premises due to the excessive smoke at the Beetham Landfill.
“Once again contingencies have been put in place to ensure ongoing delivery of fuel but there will be no sale of LPG from NP Sea Lots,” the company said.
The Express was told by one staff member of the Eastern Girls’ Primary School that the smoke troubling the city since last Sunday was so “thick and bitter” early yesterday morning as to cause some pupils to cough, wheeze and experience burning of the eyes, nose and throat.
The smoke, which the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) said yesterday was cause for “grave concern”, began to envelope the city Sunday from what later was revealed to be at least a dozen fires in the landfill.
Though Beetham residents have denied it, speculation arose that the fires were set deliberately following the shooting Sunday of a Beetham resident by police.
In a media statement yesterday, the Ministry of Education confirmed that approval had been granted for the early closure of some schools.
Success/Laventille Secondary School, Queen’s Royal College, St Joseph Convent, Tranquility Government Secondary School, St Roses Girls’ Primary School, Rosary Boys Primary School, Beetham Estate Primary School, Bethlehem Girls’ Primary School, Bethlehem Boys Primary School, St Philips Government Primary School, Sacred Heart Girls Primary School, Sacred Boys Primary School, Eastern Girls Primary School, St Hildas Government Primary School, St Ursulas AC Primary School and Moulton Hall Methodist Primary School were all granted permission to dismiss pupils early.
In addition to some schools, businesses throughout downtown Port of Spain had to allow some of their employees to take leave for the day.
As far as St Ann’s, the Denmark Consulate was also closed, after smoke blew in and settled on the area.
On the streets in Port of Spain, vendors complained that they had been forced to subject themselves to the smoky conditions or lose business.
“If we go home, we don’t make a living,” said one fruit vendor, who complained that the smoke had given her a persistent headache since last Sunday.
For those vendors living in the Beetham area, the problem has been a 24-hour one.
“I don’t know if the fire was set on purpose or not but it has affected me and my children since Sunday,” another vendor said, adding that her four-year granddaughter, an asthmatic, has had to be monitored since then.