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Families evacuate

By STACY MOORE Friday, January 10 2014

click on pic to zoom in
DEFECTIVE:  Officials spray two defective gas tanks at Milton Road, Balmain, Couva. The cylinders were then placed in yellow plastic containers and ca...
DEFECTIVE: Officials spray two defective gas tanks at Milton Road, Balmain, Couva. The cylinders were then placed in yellow plastic containers and ca...

GAS fumes forced the evacuation of several families in Balmain, Couva as many residents complained of headaches, vomiting and nauseous feelings.

The road along Milton Road, Balmain was yesterday cordoned off by police officers as caution — tape was placed blocking off access to the houses following the evacuation of residents.

Two cylindrical tanks that were tampered with were found outside an abandoned house along De Montebruin Street off Milton Road. It was revealed the tanks were the source of a gas leak affecting the community over the past two days. The valves were broken and it was reported the tanks contained the gas identified as “Ethyl Mercaptan”. This gas has been described as a colour- less liquid which is usually added to fuel systems as a warning agent in the event of any leakage. Six other tanks containing the gas were found in a secluded area of the house. It is believed the tanks were in the process of being stripped down into the raw materials of iron for the purpose of sales by a Couva resident. The suspect, a 35-year-old man, has since gone into hiding.

The stench began emulating from early as 7 am on Wednesday and continued until early yesterday morning which caused panic among the residents. The Fire Service and nearby Couva Police Station were contacted. Fire officials visited the area on Wednesday night and returned yesterday morning. The tanks that were outside were sprayed with water by fire officials before they cautiously entered the abandoned house. Each tank weighed 250 pounds. Residents were asked to vacate their homes because inhalation of the fumes was deemed dangerous. Many of residents including babies, children and an eight-month pregnant woman were rushed out of the area. “My neighbour started vomiting as the stench began to get stronger and I know it was serious,” said resident Christopher Seepersdad, 33.

Seepersad said he returned to the area yesterday to be updated on what was happening. “There are two babies living in my house and we had to get them out so quickly because this scent was making us feel so sick and we are adults so you could imagine these infants. But they are safe and at another location, thank God,” Seepersad said.

Wendell Braxton said he felt some relief that there were specialised persons on the scene trying to deal with the problem.

“When I got the scent I began to feel dizzy. All I could think of was to run. When it hit you trust me you really did not know what to do,” Braxton told Newsday. Carolyn Martin said she was sleeping but the fumes woke her up.

“One time I thought I left my gas tank on so I rushed to the kitchen area only to know everything was secure,” Martin said. She said children began vomiting. “I just started to feel dizzy and was frightened for my daughter who is eight months pregnant. But I’m glad they are okay now,” she said.

Paras Goolcharan said he stayed at home with his grandson, Jodel, but was warned the stench was dangerous. “Some of the other children were sent to different locations for the while. But I am monitoring my grandson here,” he said

Senior police officers said there were leads on the whereabouts of the suspect who is known to them.

Investigations are being led by acting Sgt Eric Alexander of the Couva Police Station. Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh who visited the area said he was alerted to the problem after receiving calls from residents while at his constituency office.

He said on arrival he was greeted by a strong odour adding the tanks were a threat to “life and limb” as they could explode.

“How were these tanks transported here I don’t know. I hate to think that it was going to be cut up for scrap iron. A number of questions are unanswered for me, the most important thing is to have the tanks catered away from here and to be dis posed in a safe and proper manner,” he said. A National Gas Company representative yesterday said the abandoned cylinders were dated 1998 and 1999.

“The person from the abandoned house has fled the scene ,but we do understand from residents that he was trying to open one of them and scrap it down for metal, in doing so it is alleged that he basically discharged one of them and that is where the odour started,” the NGC official said.

The eight tanks have since been removed from the premises. Investigations are continuing.

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