Saturday, December 16, 2017

Marabella residents spend night on road

Oil spill aftermath

MARABELLA residents spent most of Thursday night on the road because they said the scent coming from the Guaracara River as a result of the most recent oil spill was suffocating.

Children, elderly people and a pregnant woman pleaded to be moved out of the area, but no official evacuation notice was given by Petrotrin.

Police officers from the Marabella and San Fernando police stations regularly patrolled the area.

San Fernando Mayor Kazim Hosein again visited Silk Cotton Road, Battoo Avenue, around 9 p.m. to hear residents chanting, “We want compensation, we want justice.”

They said they did not need food and water provided to them by Petrotrin, but they needed the river to be cleaned up, compensation, medical assistance and a proper place to stay.

Some requested to be relocated out of the area permanently. Others did not wish to leave their homes because they feared burglary.

On Thursday night, Petrotrin staff worked late attempting to clean up the oil spill by placing oil dispersants in the river, which residents said enhanced the strong oil and gas scent.

Since the spill occurred on Tuesday, at least 20 people were treated at the company’s Augustus Long Hospital, Pointe-a-Pierre. Petrotrin’s president, Khalid Hassanali, and other seni­or officials met residents and promised to assist.

Petrotrin has stated the oil spill was a result of a leaking tank at the Pointe-a-Pierre refine­ry.

People were advised not to light their stoves, but by Thursday they were told it was safe to do so.

Yesterday, at the office of councillor for Mara­bella East Arnold Soogrim, a doctor again attended to least 12 children from the area.

Judy Brown said: “We cannot sleep. We cannot take the scent. Petrotrin need to do something about that river. I have to go to work in the morning.”

There was one Petrotrin safety officer in the area last night who said air monitoring was taking place 24-7.

Residents complained of feeling upset, vomiting, headaches and difficulty breathing.

Dianna Villafana, who is eight months’ pregnant, said she was not satisfied with the medical treatment she received at the hospital.

She was taken to the hospital around 8 p.m. on Wednesday after she complained of cold sweating, headaches and throat problems. 

Villafana, 29, said: “I just want to move out to be safe. I don’t want anything to affect my baby.”

Street captain Videsh Kalloo said if Petrotrin did not attend to the residents’ requests by yesterday, a protest would take place in front of Petrotrin’s head office on Monday.

He said although people were sceptical to leave the area, “if Petrotrin issued an alert, people will move out”.

Yesterday, he said the situation remained the same. Petrotrin continued to provide meals, the residents were visited by some officials but still they were not satisfied, he said.

Hosein promised the San Fernando City Corporation would assist in any way it could. He too complained he could not get in contact with Petrotrin.

He said: “Most of the people here want evacuation, compensation and relocation. This is a matter that will have to be negotiated with Petrotrin. I will try and contact them again to set up a meeting to talk on behalf of you all here.”

Residents also complained they have not seen their Member of Parliament for the area, Errol McLeod. Attempts by the Express to get in contact with McLeod yesterday were futile.