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TOXIC AIR

By RICHARDSON DHALAI Monday, January 6 2014

click on pic to zoom in

TOXIC fumes emanating from the oil slick along Coffee Beach, La Brea, have sickened a woman who, on Saturday, had to be rushed to hospital where doctors immediately nebulised (gave her oxygen) to help her breathe.

Doctors have advised relatives of Melissa Joseph, 29, that she is in need of plenty of fresh air and bed rest if she is to recuperate soon.

Joseph lives on Queen Street, Coffee Beach, and her having to be rushed to Point Fortin Area Hospital, at about 3 pm on Saturday, when she began gasping for breath, set off a panic in the Coffee Beach community.

Residents there have been battling nausea from breathing hydrocarbon fumes since the December 17 oil spill from State-owned Petrotrin’s offshore wells which have spread crude oil on the beach surface for miles.

Residents of Queen Street, who live 500 feet from the beach, yesterday renewed their call for at least those who in close proximity to the shoreline to be evacuated immediately.

Joseph took her own action and evacuated her three children from the area for fear they could fall ill by breathing the pungent smell of hydrocarbon.

In an interview yesterday, while she lay on her hospital bed with a nebuliser (oxygen mask) attached to her nostrils, Joseph said her son, Samuel Belgrave, 10, has been living with her mother at upper Queen Street while her other two children, Isiah James, six, and his sister Faith James, two, are staying with their father even further away from the beach at Ramjalsingh Street.

Joseph said at about 2 pm, on Saturday, she suddenly began to experience difficulty breathing. Joseph said she complained to a neighbour, adding she had a severe headache for most of the day.

Joseph said, “I just start to get a short breath and I call the neighbour.” An ambulance rushed Joseph to the hospital where she was still warded up to yesterday.

Joseph said, “I was admitted because the doctors said I inhaled too much oil fumes and couldn’t breathe. This is the second day I am here and they said, because I was exposed to the fumes for so long, I got headaches because of the stress placed on my organs.”

Joseph was administered three bags of drips. “They put me on the nebuliser with oxygen, and the headaches only eased up after I got oxygen,” she also said.

Doctors have also taken a blood sample for tests to determine if any of her organs have been affected by the constant inhalation of the hydrocarbon fumes.

Joseph said the doctors told her she would not be discharged from hospital until she is adequately nebulised and “my body is free of the fumes and the pains are gone.” The woman added, “ They said I need fresh air and rest.”

Joseph operates a catering service for the community and yesterday lamented her children, Samuel and Isiah, may not go to school today, the start of the new term after the Christmas holidays. She said, “I wasn’t able to work so I don’t know how my children going to school.”

Speaking with Newsday, Joseph’s mother, Marva Williams, promised to send Samuel to his classes at Vance River RC Primary School today. Samuel, a Standard Three student, said he was missing his mother but was also looking forward to attending school.

Isiah and Faith’s father, Rodney James, yesterday said he would not send Isiah to school until his mother is discharged from the hospital.

Rodney also said his daughter who developed a rash shortly after the oil washed ashore, had to be treated with medication.

Coffee beach fisherman, Gopaul Balkissoon, yesterday said while clean-up operations were continuing, the full moon tides were posing a difficulty because of rough waters.

Balkissoon said Petrotrin has disregarded pleas from Fishermen and Friends of the Sea which had asked for a halt to seismic bombings in the Gulf of Paria, saying they had observed vessels laying cables on the sea floor in preparation for the surveys.

“We are using a pirogue to monitor whatever they are doing and the company still laying cables and drilling holes for these seismic surveys and this is something we asked them to stop,” Balkissoon said.

Efforts to contact Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine were unsuccessful yesterday.

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