The scene of devastation at Sand Banks, Abaco.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE government is seeking to relocate more than 150 people displaced after a fire devastated an Abaco shanty town last week.
The government is also considering temporarily relocating residents of other Abaco shanty towns, particularly Pigeon Peas, which has a history of fires, said North Abaco MP Renardo Curry.
“We understand how serious this situation is and we are sympathetic to those involved in it and we are moving as quickly as possible with this,” he said, adding that the government should reach a conclusion on this matter in “another couple of weeks.”
“Everything would have to go strictly by building codes,” Mr Curry said. “We have to prevent things like this from happening again. I’m personally in consultation with the minister of housing who is also the minister for environment. We are moving very quickly. We want to make a better environment for residents to live in.”
He said illegal immigrants, who were displaced when last week’s fire wiped out more than 70 homes in the Sand Banks area, will be among those given temporary accommodation when the government finalises its decision.
“Anytime you have a tragedy like this, the government’s first priority is a utilitarian effort, providing a temporary shelter to those who would’ve suffered,” Mr Curry said. “The immigration policy is still in force and I’m sure the Department of Immigration will use due diligence to bring under control the immigration problem on the island.”
As for the property on which the Sand Banks shanty town was located, Mr Curry said it is private property whose owners are in talks with the government to have it secured following years of challenges with preventing illegal construction on the land.
Mr Curry said there has been an outpouring of assistance from charitable groups seeking to help displaced residents, most of whom, he said, have moved in with family members in the surrounding community.
The displaced include 104 adults, 36 children of school age and 15 infants.
Regarding the incident, a 23-year-old man, Joel Josue, pleaded guilty after being charged last week with damaging and endangering property by the wilful and negligent use of fire.
According to a government report on shanty towns last year, Abaco is home to the biggest shanty town population in the Family Islands.
Combined, its three shanty town communities – Sand Banks, the Mud and Pigeon Peas – were said to have more than 1,000 homes.