‘...Poorest worst affected, more effective response needed’

By Carolyn Kissoon

Not enough is being done to assist residents affected by the oil spill between La Brea and Cedros.

This is according to two People’s National Movement (PNM) representatives in the affected areas, who said that some of the poorest citizens were the worst affected by the disaster.

La Brea MP Fitzgerald Jeffrey and MP for Point Fortin Paula Gopee-Scoon said they were concerned about how the oil spill would affect residents living along the coastline, and the environment.

Jeffrey, who lives in the area, said it was the worst oil spill in the country’s history to affect the southwestern coast.

And he was pleased that the Ministry of Energy has considered international assistance in the clean-up exercise.

“I live in the area and it is the worst oil spill I have ever seen in my life on this earth. I was there last night. The stench is real high. It will take years for that (La Brea) to really come back to life. I think they are doing the best they can. But I think the situation in La Brea is demanding. The Government is doing the right thing by calling on international assistance in dealing with the issue.,” he said.

Jeffrey said he was also concerned that Petrotrin has not yet been able to find the source of the leak. “If you don’t know where the oil coming from, it is difficult for you to control it,” he said.

Jeffrey said the unemployment rate in La Brea was high and residents in Coffee Beach, the worst affected area, were considered the poorest in the constituency.

He said families earned an income by catching crabs and fishing. “Now with that oil spill it means to say the situation has become worst, so the income would not be coming into the household and that is a tremendous problem.”

The positive aspect of the oil spill, he said, was residents were being paid to assist in the clean-up.

“The nets and other fishing equipment were also destroyed. The vessels area in a bad state and so on,” he said.

Jeffrey advised that the authorities consider relocation for residents. He suggested the affected families are placed in vacant Housing Development Corporation (HDC) apartments until the situation is returned to normal.

Jeffrey said members of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force should be called in to guard the residents’ homes until they are allowed to return.

Gopee-Scoon said pockets of oil were spotted along the coastline, headed towards Fullerton beach in Cedros. And she was concerned that the response by Petrotrin and the relevant authorities was “woefully inadequate”.

“To my mind the response was not effective and I had expectation of a process and procedure which would have been clearly defined in this kind of oil spill. I would have expected much more effective response,” she said.

Gopee-Scoon said the fishing industry was severely affected by the oil spill.

“I know that fishermen have been affected and the marine life has been affected. It is very disheartening especially at this time of the year,” he said.

Gopee-Scoon said residents and visitors would not be able to enjoy the beaches this holiday season.

“This time you have a lot of people going to the beach and that cannot happen as well. You have people coming from outside and also the residents who come out as well to enjoy the beach...clearly that is not going to happen this year,” she said.

Thick, black oil was observed along the coastline in La Brea last Wednesday. The oil has spread to several areas along the coastline. Petrotrin has stated that the source of the oil remains undetermined.

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