Three persons injured in petrol station inferno
The southern Grenadine island of Union, known for its peace and tranquility, was thrown into a state of panic on Tuesday when the island’s only petrol station was destroyed by a raging fire.
The scene at about 6:40 pm at the UniGas gas station in Clifton could easily have been from a movie, as Shaniqua “Azaria” Alexander was ejected, by the force of an explosion, out of the gas station compound, her body on fire, while Freddy Naat, the proprietor, lay unconscious in the burning compound.
Lindini Neverson, 12, was also injured in the fire.
“The thing is, persons were filming Azaria burning instead of helping her; is a white man saved her life,” one eyewitness told SEARCHLIGHT.
According to a police press release, the Union Island Fire Station was alerted about an explosion and when they responded, firefighters found the gas station engulfed in flames.
The fire caused the St Vincent Electricity Services Limited (VINLEC) to cut power to the area.
Several loud explosions were heard throughout the evening and the night sky appeared bright orange from the light coming from the burning fuel and structures.
Miraculously, firefighters, including civilian volunteers, were able to contain the blaze to two properties.
The compound from which Freddy Naat operated the gas station, a convenience store and a hardware store was extensively damaged, while the next-door wooden building, home to the ‘Roots Connection’ school and cultural club was destroyed.
All other surrounding properties were saved as fire fighters and civilians used fresh water from the personal storage of some residents and seawater to douse threatened structures, thus containing the fire, while wet sand and foam were used to quell the flames.
A coordinated effort by firefighters, police officers and residents saw the fire being brought under control by approximately 11 pm Tuesday, but the fire remained visible up until 4 am on Wednesday, May 20, a release from the police said.
At around 6 am Wednesday, firefighters were still on the scene addressing heavy steam coming from the foundation/ground of the buildings and surrounding areas within the vicinity of the explosion.
The three injured persons: Neverson, 12; Alexander, 17; and Naat, 72, were taken by the St Vincent and the Grenadines Coast Guard Service, to the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital on mainland St Vincent on Tuesday night.
Neverson is said to have sustained second degree burns while Alexander remains in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) with second and third degree burns. Naat was removed from the ICU on Wednesday but remains isolated because of the nature of his injuries; first degree burns.
Residents of the island told SEARCHLIGHT that the practice at the private gas station was for some of the fuel to be stored in large black plastic water tanks and not in the usual underground or metal storage tanks, designed for storing and carrying fuel.
A resident told Radio Grenadines that prior to the explosion at the back of the gas station, someone next door to the gas station realized that there appeared to be a gas leak and he asked Alexander, who was reportedly riding a bike, to go next door to alert Naat that something was wrong.
While the incident remains under investigation, residents of the island have begun a call for the civilian firefighters who “saved the town” to be given some form of recognition.