Sat | Sep 23, 2017

'Not going back to that sick building'

Published:Saturday | September 17, 2016 | 9:00 AMChristopher Serju
Minister of Local Government Desmond McKenzie (in front) toured the Fisheries Division yesterday on Marcus Garvey Drive in Kingston to examine the damage that was done by the recent flooding.

Even though clean-up activities are well advanced at the offices of the Fisheries Division on Marcus Garvey Drive in Kingston, where the ground floor was flooded last week Friday, operations are not likely to resume at that location.

"We are not going to come back here. This is a sick building. This is a place that is prone to health hazards, notwithstanding flooding, so we cannot come back here," a distraught AndrÈ Kong, director of fisheries, told The Gleaner yesterday.

While he did not provide specifics about the health hazards, Kong said the building had been flooded on at least four prior occasions and, in some cases, vehicles belonging to staff members had been destroyed or damaged. Some eight cars, six belonging to Fisheries staff and two to visitors, were damaged on Friday after the adjacent Shoemaker Gully overflowed its banks, trapping workers there and also affecting the sugar warehouse on the other side of the gully.

Even though professionals were brought in to counsel staff on Thursday, most are still affected a week later, their boss disclosed.

"You would be surprised to see how many staff members are traumatised," Kong shared. Among them is a woman whose anguish has been compounded by the response to what many people interpret as her vain attempt to save her car, putting her life at risk in the process.

ONLINE VIDEO

The video posted online seems to show the woman holding on to a car as raging flood waters swirl around. Members of the public have posted comments accusing her of being stupid, but the director of fisheries has taken issue with them, arguing that things are not what they seem to be.

He told The Gleaner: "It is so unfortunate that people in the public space are making mean-spirited and unkind remarks about our officer who was trying to save her life. She was trying to save her life by holding on to the car. In fact, what my staff was doing when they were told that the gully was overflowing was securing government property.

"That same officer who was holding on to her car to save her life was taking up the things off the ground, plugging out the government computer and trying to save the files. That is what she was doing. And when she came out to see what was happening, the current was so strong and that car was there, so she had to hold on to something or she would have been washed away. She is so traumatised and I think it is so unfortunate that people are going to find time to be saying those things in such a state of disaster. It is unacceptable," Kong said.

Meanwhile, Kong disclosed that the division will resume some critical operations, such as licensing and registration of fishers, issuance of Catch Certificates for exporters of marine products to the European Union and customs duty concessions, from the offices of the Cocoa Industry Board located two doors away on Marcus Garvey Drive.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com