Noxious fumes rattle Morant Bay
Jolyn Bryan, Gleaner Writer
Nauseating fumes still lingered around Rum Store Plaza, Morant Bay, St Thomas, several hours after an explosion that left passers-by and office workers in need of medical attention yesterday.
Firefighters responded around 9 a.m., to reports of noxious fumes coming from the vicinity of the Tax Administration office on Church Street.
Assistant Superintendent D. Morris from the fire department explained that the cause of the fumes was an old, rusted cylinder containing chlorine, used by the National Water Commission (NWC) to purify drinking water.
Businesses and residences within 200 feet of the explosion were evacuated and the area was cordoned off with the help of the police. Scores of persons who had been exposed to the fumes had to be rushed to the Princess Margaret Hospital. As many as 50 individuals had to seek medical attention after being affected.
Kevin Sutherland, a cookshop chef, was one of the first to be affected.
"I felt like inside my stomach was melting. I was weak and I couldn't breathe. They gave me tablets and an injection, and put me on a nebuliser 'cause I have asthma," he told The Gleaner.
Percival Smith, who lives in the dwelling where the cylinder exploded, said, "The container deh here from before me. It never do nothing yet. It not even move. But me hear the hiss and then a loud sound, and me run."
Businesses along the busy Church Street, including the St Thomas Parish Council, were forced to close their doors, though several restaurants and bar reopened shortly after the street was reopened to traffic.
A team from the NWC's head office in Kingston removed the cylinder for safe disposal. It is believed that an accidental blow caused the worn cylinder to rupture. The fire department has given assurances that the danger has passed and all businesses have been cleared to reopen this morning.