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Move to shut down fireworks outlet

Published: 
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Fire Service: No proper storage of explosives
Assistant Chief Fire Officer Cecil Davis,left, and acting Chief Fire Officer, Kenny Gopaul, during their appearance before the joint select committee of Parliament at Tower C in Port-of-Spain yesterday.

A Macoya-based importer and distributor of fireworks has not been in compliance of storing goods for the past seven years. Despite this, he has been granting licences every year for importation.

This was among concerns raised at a Joint Select Committee (JSC) meeting looking at injuries caused by fireworks in Parliament yesterday.

Fire Service officials said efforts have been ongoing to shut down the operations but it had not been easy as there were no problems at the company’s Chaguaramas storage facility.

However, the Macoya retail outlet is not up to standard for proper storage of fireworks. A company official told CNC3 News yesterday that they had not heard the comments made in Parliament and would respond today.

Asked why there was no objection to the importation as the lives of citizens were potentially at risk, acting Assistant Chief Fire Officer Cecil Davis said because there were no issues at the Chaguaramas facility, there were no objections to the licence.

Pressed further by committee chairman Dr Dhanayshar Mahabir, Davis said: “The premises at Macoya was given certain requirements regarding upgrading the fire protection system. They were given 90 days to comply with the requirements and that has since expired.

“But we will be going forward with regards to getting the licence revoked.”

Mahabir asked what damage could occur in the event of a fire at the premises, Davis said the facility is some 20 to 30 feet away from other buildings and the type of explosives used are commercial.

“It does not have that potential as the ones in Chaguaramas, so if there is a fire we will be able to deal with it,” he said.

JSC members also heard that importers require no licence for fireworks. Wholesalers, however, have to pay a $500 licence fee and retailers $250.

Permanent Secretary in the National Security Ministry Lydia Jacob said there is no limit to the quantity of items imported. Mahabir expressed shocked at this.

Asked whether inspections are conducted by the Fire Services on fireworks at the port, Davis said this would be difficult as the items are sealed.

Despite the growing nuisance of fireworks and potential threat to life and limb, only five people were arrested for indiscriminate use by the police in the last five years.

Figures from the Fire Services show that 19 people were injured in the last five years as a result of scratch bombs. These statistics were complied from investigations done by officers at the various hospitals as none were officially reported.

There was one death resulting from a scratch bomb incident in January of this year.

The Police Service was criticised for not effectively dealing with complaints about fireworks. Deputy Police Commissioner Deodat Dulalchan said while officers respond to complaints they are challenged with prosecutions because very often people do not want to give statements or testify in court against relatives or neighbours.

Dr Robin Sinanan, head of the Accident and Emergency Department at the South Western Regional Health Authority, expressed concern about the number of injuries due to scratch bombs. He said among the injured were two and three year olds whose fingers were so severely damaged they could not be reattached.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parsaram said in 2015 there were 11 cases of scratch bomb injuries.

One of the recommendations made to the JSC was to have fireworks discharged in communal areas rather than individual residences to minimise noise pollution.