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Manager disputes Buccament family’s claim that shelter was shut

Manager disputes Buccament family’s claim that shelter was shut

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A Buccament family’s desire to keep safe during the passage of Tropical Storm Matthew has sparked contention about whether the family’s nearest emergency shelter was closed when they tried to seek refuge.

An article published on SEARCHLIGHT’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Searchlight1/) on Wednesday, September 28, highlighted the plight of Maureen Browne and her four children, whose residence is located on the bank of the Buccament River.

Browne had said that she had tried to relocate her family twice to their nearest emergency shelter, the Buccament Government School at Dubois, but on both occasions had found the shelter closed – which was also the case when SEARCHLIGHT’S Lyf Compton visited the shelter on Wednesday morning after interviewing the Brownes.{{more}}

SEARCHLIGHT published the article on Facebook at 4:49 p.m. and at about 5:20 p.m., Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education Morine Williams contacted SEARCHLIGHT to advise that the family was safely housed at the shelter, and that – contrary to what Browne said – it had indeed been open all of Tuesday night.

In an attempt to clarify the matter, Compton visited the shelter at the Buccament Government School yesterday, September 29, to speak with Browne. However, instead of being able to interview the head of the family again, there was an exchange of harsh words between him and the shelter manager Bertram Stapleton.

Stapleton told SEARCHLIGHT that he demanded that Compton leave the premises only after Compton became “loud and aggressive” and used profanity after he was challenged about disregarding the protocol of entering an emergency shelter.

However, in audio recorded by another SEARCHLIGHT reporter who had accompanied Compton to the emergency shelter, Stapleton could be heard insisting that Compton leave the premises, even before the argument between them had escalated.

Stapleton also claimed that he had opened the shelter around 5 p.m. on Tuesday, and it remained open until Wednesday morning, when he closed it shortly after 10 a.m.

“I came back and opened up the place after 12 [noon],” he insisted. “That’s when I came back and met my principal.”

Compton had visited the emergency shelter on Wednesday at some point between 11:30 a.m. and noon, and had found it closed. Browne had told him on Wednesday that she had unsuccessfully tried for the second time to access the shelter shortly before being interviewed.

“We are frightened, but they say if anything we could come up by the school, but they not opened…the Dubois Primary School (Buccament Government School),” said Maureen on Wednesday, adding: “It’s not safe here, but we don’t have anywhere else to go. If anything, we have to go up by the school, but it not opened.”

The family’s abode is built on the bank of the Buccament River, and Tuesday night, amidst initial storm warnings, they claim they had attempted to remove themselves from potential danger by relocating to the primary school – which is one of several emergency shelters throughout the country.

Maureen said that she and her children were scared, and had only slept for a short while on Tuesday night because they were monitoring the water level.

She also recalled that when the December 2013 flooding hit, the raging river water washed away many of their belongings when it swept through their modest home.

Maureen’s 12-year-old daughter Kyla, who attends the Buccament Government School, said that her teacher had told students that persons should go to the emergency shelter if the rains grew too heavy.

“They told us we could come by the school but it wasn’t opened and we were frightened,” she said.

The 12-year-old told SEARCHLIGHT that the impending heavy rains made her “scared” because in December 2013, the flood waters swept away two of their computers – among other items.

Head teacher of the Buccament Government School Susan Abraham, who was also present when Compton visited the shelter yesterday, disputed the chain of events, relaying to SEARCHLIGHT that when questioned, the Browne family were uncertain what time they had attempted to access the emergency shelter.

Additionally, Abraham suggested to Compton that SEARCHLIGHT had paid the Browne family to say that the shelter had not been open when they tried to relocate.

She also insisted that even if anyone had visited the shelter while Stapleton was out, other persons were there who would have seen them and no one had.

Compton said Abraham seemed upset about the story published on Facebook and asked him about it as soon as he arrived at the shelter. The discussion about the accuracy of the story quickly deteriorated into the heated exchange between Compton and Stapleton.

Up to press time, it was still unclear at what times the Browne family had tried to enter the emergency shelter on Tuesday and Wednesday, as SEARCHLIGHT was ordered off the compound and not allowed to interview them.

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