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When a nation cries


JOHN SEALY

When a nation cries

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​THE CONSEQUENCES of a tragic fire at Campus Trendz four years ago on a busy Friday night are still etched in the memories of Barbadians.

The news that six young women had lost their lives after being trapped in the two-storey building on Tudor Street threw a pall over the country as the Saturday morning broke, exposing the enormity of the tragedy.

On September 3, 2010, the emergency services were thrown into full alert around 7 p.m. Streets were cordoned off as friends and families hurried to the scene hoping that the fallout from the inferno did not impact on them. For some it was good news. For others it was not.

Over 41 firemen and six tenders fought the blaze which had threatened to extend to other buildings.

At 10:40 p.m. when the flames had subsided, firefighters entered through a hole which was dug at the back of the building, where they found one of the victims.

At 11:22 p.m., when the last ambulance left there were confirmed reports that at least five bodies had been recovered.

In the end, the six victims were Kellishaw Olliviere, 24, of Wellington Street, The City; Shanna Griffith, 18, of Pile Bay, Spring Garden, St Michael; Pearl Amanda Cornelius, 18, of London Bourne Towers, The City; Kelly-Ann Welch, 24, of Montrose, Christ Church; Tiffany Harding, 23, of Upper Collymore Rock, St Michael; and Nikkita Belgrave, 23, of Shop Hill, St Thomas.

Emotional

​​Four years later, the embers have gone cold. The dust has settled on the fire. And the store stands deserted. But a commemorative event, held every year on the anniversary, continues to be an emotional trigger for many.

It has created a character of its own by winning Government support for a national minute of silence to remember the victims.

But the 2010 tragedy is also used as a reference point for the retention of the death penalty by some callers to radio talk shows.

Calls for the improvement of a number of physical structures in Bridgetown to allow for easier exits and for improved street lighting are also some of the issues raised when the Campus Trendz disaster is mentioned.

Chief Fire Officer Wilfred Marshall, in an interview two years after the event, admitted that the structure of some buildings in Bridgetown could be a blockage to major adjustments. However, he said that since the incident, the Barbados Fire Service’s Fire Prevention Unit had been around to a majority of stores, particularly in Tudor Street, engaging in discussions with more than 200 store personnel about fire prevention and safety.

As another minute of silence was held on Wednesday and family and friends converged on Heroes Square, calls for the improvement in the safety of buildings were still being made.

Director of the September 3 Foundation David Comissiong said little had been done to fix substandard conditions in many commercial buildings across the island.

He called on Government to put the necessary funding or assistance programmes in place to give building owners avenues to retrofit their properties.

Comissiong also said that a scholarship/apprenticeship programme will be set up in memory of the Campus Trendz victims.

 

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