12 left homeless, three injured in arson

The remains of the burnt-out home in ‘Old Yard’ stand behind Archie’s Bar, off Shedden Road, where three people were injured. - Photos: Jewel Levy

Twelve people were left homeless in a fire in which three were injured Wednesday morning at a small, nine-bedroom residence on Shedden Road. Police say they are investigating the case as an act of arson.

One of the three victims was released from the hospital Wednesday, while two remained hospitalized, including one women who may be flown off island for treatment for her burns.

The blaze occurred in a house in “Old Yard,” behind Archie’s Bar on Shedden Road.

Witnesses at the scene Thursday morning said the now burnt-out dwelling contained nine rooms, which were all occupied at the time, by at least 12 people. The occupants lost all their possessions, including passports and other personal documents.

Firefighters were on the scene at 5:56 a.m. The fire was under control by 6:06 a.m. and flames extinguished by 6:23 a.m.

Carmalee Watson, a friend who is trying to assist the occupants, said she was told there were screams of “Fire, fire” by one of the victims, which alerted the others to get out of the house. She said the people who had lost their belongings in the fire have been receiving donations of clothing, but she was appealing to the public for donations to help take the woman by air ambulance off island for treatment.

One tenant, who asked not to be named, said she had lost everything in the fire. Items that were not burned were water-damaged when firefighters doused the flames. She said she was not at home at the time of the fire and only learned about it after she was notified by a friend.

A burnt mattress and other personal effects litter the walkway from the house to the communal bathrooms, which were also burned in the fire.

Sitting under a tree to the side of the burnt home talking with friends Thursday morning, she said she had no idea what to do next. She said she had not secured somewhere else to live yet.

George Town Central MLA Kenneth Bryan visited the premises following the fire. He said he tried to assist the tenants by connecting them with relevant agencies and charities.

He said he called the director of the Needs Assessment Unit and held an emergency meeting to assist a Caymanian woman who lived at the premises.

In respect to the other tenants, all Jamaican nationals, he said he had contacted the Jamaican Consulate and its representatives, passing along tenants’ phone numbers and contact details. Mr. Bryan said the consulate had been in contact with each one of them, including the female burn victim.

He said the Jamaican Honorary Consul Dr. Joseph Marzouca was working to help arrange an air ambulance for the woman.

“Cayman does not have the burn unit to deal with that,” Mr. Bryan said, adding that the woman did not appear to have health insurance. “She was not covered at the time, which is becoming a bit of an issue.”

Police and the Fire Service are investigating the cause of the fire.

Anyone with information is encouraged to call the George Town Police Station at 949-4222. Anonymous tips can be provided directly to the RCIPS via their confidential tip line at 949-7777.

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