TEARS FLOW: Tricia Lalmah, left, consoles Zakiya Thomas, who was left homeless, during a memorial service yesterday for victims of last Tuesday's fire in which four people and an unborn baby girl died at Trou Macaque, Laventille. –Photo: MICHEAL BRUCE

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HAUNTED BY FIRE DEATHS

One week after Laventille tragedy residents hold prayer session...

By Anna Ramdass anna.ramdass@trinidadexpress.com

THE HAUNTING screams for help still echo in the hills of Laventille—one week after a deadly inferno claimed the lives of three children and a woman.

Images of the victims, jumping to their death from the fifth floor, of a burning Housing Development Corporation building, remained etched in the minds of those who witnessed the tragedy likened to the September 11, 2001 bombing of the World Trade Center, in New York, USA.

Residents yesterday gathered at the community's basketball court, metres from the now abandoned building, where they remembered in song and prayers the lost neighbours.

Relatives of the dead—Lisa Charles, 46, her neighbour Akeem Young, 15, two-year-old Deniecia Campbell and 10-month-old Destiny Lara—and eight survivors, who jumped from the building, attended the memorial.

The gathering, an annual event, had been originally organised to treat children in the area. The service and treat was organised by Operation Salvation—a coming together of the various churches in Morvant and Laventille.

One resident who only gave her name as Gloria said the images of the dead children are still haunting her.

"The young boy (Akeem Young) use to come by me every day to buy sucker bag and ice, they didn't have a fridge and current," she said.

"When you hear people cry for help just before they die, you can't forget that, I was shaking like a leaf. They was screaming help, help, but nobody could have help then," she said, as she pointed to her apartment—just opposite the burnt building.

"I can't get that picture out my mind, I saw the remains of the children, black, burnt, against the white sheet when they (undertakers) bring them out," she said.

Solomon Black, a friend of Beverly Julien-Young, who was injured in the blaze, said she still remains in critical condition at the Intensive Care Unit at hospital.

"She can hear us but she can't respond at all but I remain positive," he said.

Pastor Joseph Caine, who officiated that the memorial, said that a lot of people are confused over the horrific incident and may question why would it happen.

Laventille West MP NiLeung Hypolite, the only politician at the event, said he visited some of the affected families who were relocated to Oropune Gardens, Piarco.

He said the children in particular were most affected.

"Children are still jumping up in the middle of the night and crying. I was like a 9/11 where you actually saw people jumping out the building, it is not something you can get over in seven days but this will stay with them for quite a long time,'' said Hypolite.

Community leader Natasha Arcia told the Express that every year a treat is held for the children in the area and a decision was taken not to cancel it but to also use the event to remember those who died.

Last Tuesday, shortly after midnight, a 39-year-old man set fire to a door leading to an apartment on the fifth floor of the HDC Building 2 in Trou Macaque.

He has since been arrested and charged with four offences of murder and eight charges of causing grievous bodily harm to the survivors.

Delicia Young, 18, who was seven months pregnant, lost her unborn baby when she jumped to escape the blaze.

She also lost her two-year-old daughter and 10 month old niece who were burnt to death. She too remains warded at the Intensive Care Unit of the Port of Spain General Hospital.

The eight people who were injured; Felicia Young, 21, Delicia Young 18, Khadeem Johnson 11, Ashton Young 16, Beverly Julien-Young, 54, brothers Curtis Hyde 34 and Nigel Hyde 32 and nine-year-old Josiah Charles.

The suspect is expected to appear in court tomorrow.

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