By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
MORE than 80 people have been left homeless and their houses destroyed after another blaze ripped through The Mud in Abaco in the early hours yesterday.
Central and South Abaco MP James Albury told The Tribune between 35 to 40 structures are estimated to have been destroyed as a result of this latest blaze. At the time he spoke with this newspaper, some 83 people had registered at a local shelter after being displaced by the fire. No one was reported killed or injured in the inferno.
However, Mr Albury said he and other officials suspect the actual number of displaced persons is much higher than that.
No lives were reported to have been lost during the blaze.
Mr Albury said police have not identified a possible cause of the fire, however, he said officials will still conduct some more “thorough walkthroughs” to determine the cause and the total damage the community suffered. Mr Albury said the main shelter for those displaced by the fire is the local Seventh-Day Adventist church. The Bahamas Red Cross will be managing the relief efforts and distributing food and other items to assist those affected.
Mr Albury also said that the Department of Social Services, in addition to private citizens, are assisting in relief efforts.
Sunday’s blaze comes just over a month after a fire, alleged to have been arson, broke out at the Marsh Harbour shanty town, destroying scores of homes and displacing over 150 people. However, Mr Albury said yesterday’s fire, which has since been extinguished, took place in a different area from January’s blaze, on the opposite end of the shantytown.
According to initial reports, shortly after 1am police received reports of a fire in The Mud. Police fire services and other emergency volunteers arrived at the scene, and residents of the area were subsequently evacuated.
Fire fighters and other volunteers battled strong winds and as a result many homes were destroyed before the fire could be contained.
Mr Albury told The Tribune he first received news of the fire around 7.30am yesterday, after waking up to a number of missed calls and messages. He said when he arrived at the scene around 8am, the fire had been contained and extinguished.
After he personally inspected the site, he said he returned to the shelter to assist with relief efforts.
“Whenever these things happen it’s an emergency situation, but the police, the volunteers, the firefighters all deserve kudos for containing it and addressing the issue,” he told The Tribune yesterday. “Right now I’ll call the atmosphere calm, everything in the shelter, the procedure with registering persons went very smoothly. Tensions aren’t too high. People are trying to help one another in the aftermath of the fire.
“It is a bit of an extra blow because there was another large fire in the same community less than six weeks ago, so it is kind of almost a back-to-back blow. But right now people are being calm, collected and we’re just going to have to help them the best way we can.”
In the January fire approximately 55 homes were destroyed, affecting 170 people. A 42-year-old man was subsequently arraigned in Abaco’s Magistrate’s Court on 10 counts of arson.
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has since pledged the area that fire affected will be cordoned off and no structures will be allowed to be rebuilt in that space.
In 2014, a fire in The Mud prompted a pledge from the Christie administration to relocate more than 150 people who were consequently displaced.
A 23-year-old man, Joel Josue, pleaded guilty when he was charged with damaging and endangering property by the wilful and negligent use of fire.
Abaco is home to the country’s biggest shanty town population. Combined, its three shanty town communities: Sand Banks, The Mud and Pigeon Peas, according to statistics, have as many as 1,000 homes.