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Miserable Christmas for oil spill victims

Thursday, December 26, 2013
A La Brea fisherman bails water out of his oil-stained boat that was moored on shore at Coffee Beach, La Brea yesterday. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH

While many families celebrated Christmas Day with gaiety it was quite the opposite for oil spill-affected La Brea residents as they marked a miserable holiday yesterday. “How can we have a Christmas in these conditions?” asked Charmaine Montano, 50, one of her grandchildren hugging her leg as they stood outside her Coffee Beach, La Brea home looking helplessly at their oil-stained driveway.



Residents have been forced to endure pungent fumes from an oil spill that washed ashore at Queen’s Beach on Wednesday. Since then, more communities along the south western peninsula have been affected by separate oil spills washing ashore on their beaches. Up to late yesterday, Petrotrin staff and contractors were busy mopping up oil spills at Fullarton, Granville and Coffee Beach.


Yesterday, Oneca Branker-Showers, 29, who has been living at Coffee Beach for the last ten years, summed up her Christmas Day with one word: “miserable.” She said since the oil spill, more than a week ago, she and her husband had not slept properly and they were unhappy with the situation.


“Today (yesterday) is Christmas Day, it supposed to be a happy day. We supposed to be happy. But it have no Christmas here for us. Usually on Christmas Day we would cook nice things and my friends and family would come over. They tell us we cannot cook,” she lamented. For 76-year-old Errol Lee, Christmas Day 2013 was “the worst I ever see in my life.” 



He said his ailing wife and bed-ridden brother Alpheus Lee, who suffered a stroke, were forced to breathe in the fumes from the oil spill and there was nothing he could do about it. Lee said every year he looked forward to Christmas, but this year it was just another bad day in his village.


“I have one Christmas wish—for things to go back the way they were before this whole thing happen. They talking about moving we to the (La Brea) community centre. I not in that,” the elderly man said as he looked at the oil-stained coastline while standing on his front step. He said he still had his ham, which he would usually bake on Christmas Eve, tucked away in his freezer. “I cannot bake it. They tell us we cannot have any open flames,” Lee lamented.


Yesterday, clean-up operations were somewhat scaled down. The beach area was cordoned off with yellow caution tape and security was heavy at the beachfront. Large “restricted access” signs were posted at the entrance to the fishing boat area as workers continued to mop up oil from the shore. The workers also had to battle rough waves and high tides to tie oil booms (barriers) in the water to keep the oil from returning to the sea. Residents affected by the disaster are calling for relocation not evacuation.


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