An ongoing dump fire in Jamaica proves to be a disaster as dozens of schools has been closed and hundreds of residents were sent to hospital with respiratory problems.
The fire, started last Wednesday on Riverton City Dump in the vicinity of the country?s capital, is still raging over the 120-acre open-air landfill.
The government activated a national response team with members from multiple sources last Friday and since then the teem has been working at the fire site on a round-the-clock basis.
Sand and soil was purchased, heavy-duty equipment was mobilized, and the Jamaica Defense Force was summoned, but the government still have no idea on the timeline to control the fire.
Residents in Kingston spent the weekend under the blanket of smog, only to find that they were advised by the government to close the windows and doors, and remain in doors as much as possible during the new week.
More than 50 schools have been closed and they were asked to stay closed until the smog improves. But even the firefighters were not sure when the smog could improve as the fire continues.
Commissioner of the Jamaica Fire Brigade Errol Mowatt told a press conference on Monday afternoon if the current resources available to the agency are maintained, the fire could expected to be extinguished by the weekend.
Approved by the cabinet, Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites told the press conference the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), which was scheduled on March 19 and 20, has been postponed by a week.
?Of the 38,470 students scheduled to sit the examination over the two days, 11,675 are within the areas affected by fire, which involves 241 schools in Kingston, St. Andrew and St. Catherine,? Thwaites said.
?Given the uncertainty regarding the containment of the fire, it would be difficult to go ahead and keep the original dates for the exam,? he added.
The minister said checks on the ground revealed some of the GSAT students have been affected by the adverse conditions and that a postponed examination could ensure equity.
Not only school children are vulnerable to the smog, but also adults. Figures from the Ministry of health indicate some 642 residents in the vicinity of the fire site have visited the hospital complaining respiratory problem in the past three days.
The country?s National Chest Hospital continued to work on a 24-hour basis even on the weekend.
Chief Medical Officer (CMO) in the Ministry of Health Marion Ducasse advised people to avoid the area near the landfill as best as possible, and to remain indoors and keep windows and doors closed.
For those who have no choice but face the brunt of the condition, however, she advised that they cover their nose and mouth with a damp cloth while exposed.
The CMO urged those with underlying respiratory conditions to take their medication or see a doctor at the first sign of symptoms.
Meanwhile, Mowatt asked residents to get prepared to even more smoke.
?The smoke cover is still very strong… Once we begin to turn the material and begin to apply water, it gives off more smoke because the fire is not in a free burning phase, but in a smouldering phase and gives off more smoke,? he explained.
The fire brigade commissioner said a probe into the cause of the fire is under way.
?We are not able to identify the individual or individuals involved, but based on our experiences, there had to be human intervention, for the fire had spread so quickly,? said Mowatt. Enditem.