Sol Petroleum has confirmed that it will pay compensation to business owners and residents who were forced to pay for hotel stays after being evacuated in the wake of a fire at the Jackson Point fuel depot.
Homes and businesses within a mile radius of the fuel terminal were evacuated as firefighters battled a blaze in a diesel tank for more than eight hours on June 23. Some residents were unable to return to their homes until 3 a.m. June 24.
Amid uncertainty over how long the firefighting operation would last, many opted to book hotel rooms for the night.
Until now, Sol had made no public statement on whether residents would be refunded for those expenses. Following questions from some residents and from the Cayman Compass, company representatives confirmed this week that it would process claims for reimbursement.
Residents who were affected are asked to submit receipts for the night along with proof of residence in the exclusion zone.
“Sol recognizes that some residents of the South Church Street area were not allowed to return to their homes on the evening of July 23, due to evacuation orders issued by police and fire Services.
“Sol has already received compensation claims from affected residents and those have been processed. Sol confirms that it will process claims for reimbursement of alternate accommodation costs from residents,” the company said in a statement to the Compass.
Sol said in its statement, “Sol sincerely regrets the inconvenience caused and remains committed to the safety of our community. Sol reiterates its genuine gratitude to the Emergency Response Teams, the community and our neighbors for their patience and understanding.”
Keith Sahm, manager of Sunset House, which was closed and taken over by emergency services as a command center for the night, said he was happy to see Sol doing the right thing.
He said he had paid for meals for all guests at Sunset House on the night and had submitted a claim for reimbursement from Sol.
“We’re just claiming our actual costs for the night for the 25 guests,” he said. “It would be hard to put a numerical value on the cost of shutting down the bar and restaurant for the night and we are not trying to claim for that.”
He said he was not sure if all affected residents were aware that Sol was prepared to reimburse them, and encouraged anyone affected to get in touch with the company.
Tootie Eldemire, owner of Eldemire’s Tropical Island Inn, said she had to pay for a night at the Holiday Inn for herself and her family and one of the guests. She is also seeking reimbursement from Sol.
“I’m happy they have said they will pay it, but I think it is the least they can do in the circumstances,” she said. “I am 73 years old and it was a very emotional situation. I hardly slept on that night.”
Other residents raised the issue of compensation at a public meeting last week. No one from Sol was at the meeting, and emergency services and MLA Barbara Connolly, who organized the event, were unaware of that issue.
Two investigations are under way to determine the cause of the fire, one by the fire service and another by OfReg, which has responsibility for fuel safety and inspections.