#GRANDTURK, Turks and Caicos Islands – December 7, 2017 – Unbearable billows of smoke and the health hazard it presents to students and staff have forced Education officials to shut down the high school in the Capital; HJ Robinson High parents are now asked to come and collect their children because school is cancelled for the day. A fire, believed to have been intentionally set at the Grand Turk landfill rages on and is creating potentially sickening smoke, now polluting North Backsalina, which is where the school is located.
School is “possibly closed for the rest of the week where students and teachers were seriously affected by the unhealthy smoke blowing directly over the high school. Some teachers and students were seen coughing and with watery eyes from the inhalation of this contaminating smoke.”
A resident explained that a shift in the wind direction overnight, from the southwest to west has turned the annoyance of the smoke from the JAGS McCartney International Airport to a busier part of Grand Turk, which includes bustling Church Folly.
On Monday, December 4 around 3 a.m. the security guard at the ‘dump site’ discovered that a series of fires had been set, and though there have been attempts to put out the blazes, resources are limited because there is only the airport fire unit. That aerodrome fire squad has to be stationed at the airport for plane landings, according to Civil Aviation standards.
The absence of a domestic fire unit continues to be problematic for Grand Turk which has lost schools, popular and iconic businesses and community sites and homes.
One report to Magnetic Media reveals that it has been nearly 20 years since there has been a domestic fire crew, and the near one year old PDM Administration has reported that the plan is to re-establish the unit during the next fiscal cycle which does not begin until April 2018. Even then, with all of the cut backs and re-prioritising forecast to have to happen since the double hit of hurricanes Irma and Maria in September, it puts many promises on precarious ground.
Turks and Caicos Environmental Management, TCEM reported on Monday that they are doing their best to extinguish the fires; “additional mitigation will be ongoing until the fire is completely extinguished.”
An investigation is said to be launched into the cause of the fire.