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Fire ravages through landfill

on .

A fire which flared up in landfill 2 at Providence on Saturday evening made its way into landfill 1 yesterday, burning through tires and causing thick billowing black smokes.

The smoke from the intense fire was seen from Cascade, Eden Island, Roche Caiman, town and areas in the central region.

By yesterday morning, the landfill fire had escalated to a level 2 in disaster management response which activated a national response.

Aside from the Seychelles Fire and Rescue Services Agency (SFRSA), the fire mobilised the Department of Risk and Disaster Management (DRDM), the police force, health emergency services and the Landscape and Waste Management Agency (LWMA), mandated to manage the landfill.

According to SFRSA public relations officer Jones Madeleine, the agency received a phone call around 7.27pm.

“The initial call said that there was a fire in a shop and we mobilised our team to Petit Paris but it was when we were heading back then we saw that the fire was actually in the landfill,” explained Mr Madeleine.

Even with reinforcement teams, SFRSA found itself unable to contain the fire to landfill 1 and put it under control due to various challenges including the insufficient equipment.

“We have had problems with water, machines, everything. On Saturday evening, our water pump burst and our machine used to cover fires, to make it easier to control, broke down. All of these coincidences have stopped us from doing our job properly,” said Mr Madeleine.

“It is not that we were unprepared, it’s the stage in which the fire had reached. If it’s a small fire, we can always manage it but this is a fire that has escaped us,” he added.

At the time Seychelles NATION reached the scene at noon yesterday, the SFRSA was making use of sea water and foam to fight the flames.

The fire extinguishing effort was also assisted by construction companies UCPS and Vijay, that lent their excavators to cover the fames with soil.

Later during the day, Zil Air helicopters were brought in to drop gallons of water on the flames.

“If we continue what we are doing right now, we will be able to contain it but if we cannot we expect the worst. We are making sure to remove all the risks in the area such as evacuating persons who are working or residing in the vicinity,” said Mr Madeleine.

In regards to the limited manpower, Mr Madeleine said: “Our firefighters are tired and we do not have a lot of manpower. We have officers who were working since yesterday 8pm who are still trying to extinguish the fire but they have been provided with opportunities to rest, take a breather and fortunately we have ambulances on standby in case something happens.”

Daniel Cetoupe from DRDM, who was coordinating the response, said that the “hiccups” with the equipment had not been expected given the improvements in regards to disaster response.

“We have re-strategised and gained additional support in terms of equipment and manpower. Our greatest concern is that the fire has already reached the zone where tires are dumped and which is causing the black smoke. Tires, rubber in general, are harder to put under control hence all efforts are being put in containing from that side,” noted Mr Cetoupe.

“We are allowing the other side to burn off itself and protecting the parts that have not been affected so far.”

He further explained that DRDM’s assessment had determined that the fire was extremely bad which is why it had to close off the highway.

Luckily, the fumes were not blowing in the direction of residential homes in Cascade but the department of health was notified on the issue to ensure they had staff on hand in cases of respiratory distress.

“Anyone who is experiencing respiratory issues should report to the hospital, which has a fast-track system in place at the moment,’ added Mr Cetoupe.

On his part, the deputy chief executive of LWMA, Rahul Mangroo, noted that access to the landfill has been closed and an allocated site is temporarily available for waste disposal.

“We have also suspended our Clean Up the World campaign and we will provide further information at a later point.”

The cause of the fire is yet to be determined.

As seen on television, President Danny Faure also visited the scene late yesterday afternoon.

It is to note that this is the third major fire that breaks out at the Providence landfill. A first one erupted on August 2, 2013 which forced the landfill to remain closed. According to reports, the fire started at around 3am and it took days for firefighters to combat the blaze and put it out completely.

On November 28, 2018, another fire broke out at the landfill, precisely where scrapped metals are deposited.

Contributed: Elsie Pointe


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Victoria, Mahe

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