A hotline has been set up for persons with concerns relating to the fire at the Cox Heath dump, which authorities claim is now ‘considerably reduced’.
Both Chief Fire Officer Zebalon McLean and the Manager for the Department of Waste Management, Greg Massicotte confirmed there is no visible surface fire at the Cox Heath site.
However, the dump continues to fervently emit acrid and stifling smoke.
According to a government media release, members of the public can contact 284-852-7500 or 284-852-7681 for assistance. They are also advised to visit the Cane Garden Bay clinic, which recently reopened to facilitate affected persons in that area.
Residents who are experiencing extreme medical difficulties are further advised to visit the Emergency Room at the Peebles Hospital in Road Town.
Donation to combat fire
Meanwhile, the British Virgin Islands received a donation from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to aid in combatting the now eight-day-old fire.
Fire Chief McLean said, as of May 15, all first responders on site received additional masks and respirators to protect themselves.
“Since then, heavy equipment operators continue to remove debris from the site while fire officers simultaneously cooled the interior of the pile to reduce smoke and the potential for possible internal combustion”.
In addition, Officer McLean said the United States Virgin Islands will be providing the territory with equipment.
The equipment — which will assist in extinguishing any fires under the pile and further reduce the smoke — is expected to arrive today, May 17.
Gov’t not communicating enough
In the meantime, residents are complaining that government is not sufficiently communicating with persons living in the affected communities.
A male business owner who operates a financial services company told BVI News on Wednesday (May 16) that people residing in the western parts of Tortola — where the fire is fuming — feel ‘abandoned’.
The businessman who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “This is a serious issue. It is not an issue that requires an occasional update. I think there should be daily updates and it should include air quality readings in all the different districts that are affected daily until the problem has gone away”.
He further said the air quality readings should state whether the air is safe or not.
“Right now that’s what people need to know, they need to know if it is safe to breathe in what they are breathing in. And then timelines; what is being done? People need to plan for this if it is unsafe to breathe the air. How long is it going to be the case? We have seen articles saying the fire is out and everything is under control but the fire isn’t out. You have to go at night to see that.”
He also said contrary to reports, fire personnel are not present at the dump site 24/7.
Chief Environmental Health Officer Lionel Michael suggested on Wednesday that he suspects the air quality might be compromised.
He said specialized equipment are being sought to do air quality tests in the area.
At least 20 residents fled West End
BVI News understands that at least 20 persons have evacuated the West End area for unaffected communities.
The businessman said he also had to flee his home since the fire.
“I moved out because I have been having breathing issues from the smoke,” he said.
He said his company had to assist several staff members to move out temporarily along with their families until their homes are safe to live once again.
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