Gail Alexander and Joel Julien
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Violence mars South J’Ouvert
Amid the colourful splendour, revelry and frequent police patrols, violence still found its way into San Fernando J’Ouvert celebrations, leaving two men from rival gangs severely stabbed and several others injured. Hundreds of spectators, among them children and the elderly, relaxed on folding chairs with their coolers at close reach, as they observed yesterday’s mas opposite the National Academy for Performing Arts, South Campus. However, at around 6.50 am, a man was stabbed three times on the chest, back and hand, as Pleasantville and Broadway gangs squared off. The stabbing caused a commotion and temporarily stopped the mas, while police and the victim awaited an ambulance.
However, the wounded and bleeding man refused to step in the ambulance. Instead, he began cursing and pointing out members of the opposing gang who were frolicking at the side of Kool Friends Club J’Ouvert Band, who had just passed the judges. Police at the scene were powerless to stem the violence as another clash broke out, which resulted in another man being stabbed several times on his head with a broken beer bottle. While a friend held him up and cried out for help, the second victim walked to the centre of the road and collapsed. Officers placed him in the back of their vehicle and took him to the San Fernando General Hospital (SFGH) where he was warded in a critical condition. When contacted, police said the victims remained unidentified.
A&E Department filled
An official at the SFGH told the Guardian that Accident and Emergency Department was inundated with patients suffering from stab wounds. He added that there were several patients being attended to for injuries sustained in accidents caused by drunk driving. “At the A&E right now, the trauma room is filled mainly with people with stab wounds and slashes. This is even worse than last year,” he said. Chief executive officer of the South West Regional Health Authority Anil Gosine said medical staff were prepared for the Carnival. He said there were also patients suffering with injuries sustained from flying missiles.
Describing the violence as unfortunate, San Fernando Mayor Kazim Hosein said the city will not allow the violence to spoil this year’s celebrations. Speaking via telephone, Hosein said, “I think it is unfortunate that an event like this occurred but we will not let this interrupt the Carnival. The bands and their portrayals were very vibrant this year and I believe Carnival 2014 will be a great success. “In the city of San Fernando, we are accustomed to a safe and enjoyable Carnival and we expect no less for 2014. Especially, with the amount of work put in by the Carnival committee, the councillors, administration and all the stakeholders, which includes the police, army, fire and the people. I am appealing to everybody to exercise caution and have a safe and enjoyable Carnival.”
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