The scene of devastation at Sand Banks, Abaco.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
RESIDENTS jumped from burning homes into a nearby creek to escape the flames that devastated an Abaco shanty town early yesterday morning. More than 70 homes were wiped out in the blaze that consumed the Sand Banks area, although no one is thought to have been injured in the fire, which police believe was arson.
A 23-year-old man of the Sand Bank community is currently assisting police with their investigations and Police Superintendent Noel Curry says authorities believe the fire started in one of the homes in the area.
Authorities, who found numerous wooden structures on fire when they responded to a call around 1am yesterday, brought the fire under control around 3:15am.
The firefighting team from Treasure Cay responded quickly and were joined about an hour later by officials from Marsh Harbour.
Nonetheless, an Abaco resident said the team of 12 firefighters were hindered in their efforts to control the fire because they had to travel several miles to refill with water.
The resident said the fire was almost contained at one point – until the crew had to make a 6.5-mile round trip to load up with extra water.
The Sand Banks shanty town is near Treasure Cay and its homes had stretched up to the side of a creek at the back of the complex. As the blaze swept through the area residents said they had to jump for their lives into the creek to get away.
Around 50 people later reported that they lost their homes – although the number of structures destroyed was closer to 80, The Tribune understands. It is believed that a number of people living there have not come forward because of concerns about the legality of their immigration status.
Yesterday’s blaze comes over four months after a mother and her year-old son were killed in a similar shanty town fire in the Pigeon Pea area in Marsh Harbour. More than 80 homes were burned to the ground on that occasion, leaving more than 500 members of the Haitian community homeless.
After that December 31 fire Deputy Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis told Abaco residents the government would do all that it could to ensure a situation like that did not happen again, adding that members of such communities must make certain their homes are up to standard.
The Ministry of Social Services is providing assistance to people who have been displaced by yesterday’s fire and an appeal has been launched for funds to help those families who have been affected.
The fundraising is being carried out through the Crowdrise website. A statement on the site said: “A house fire in the shanty town of Sandbanks, Abaco, Bahamas spread throughout the village and destroyed approximately 100 homes overnight. This has left 100 families without food, water or shelter on the island of Abaco. The men, women and children of Sandbanks were living in poverty prior to the fire and they need your help to overcome this tragedy. “Please join us in helping the displaced families of Sandbanks by showing them the love of Jesus Christ in giving whatever you can towards this cause.”
To donate, visit www.crowdrise.com/re-homethepeopleofsandbanksabaco.