Warehouse fire sends pipe hurtling into Cunupia community

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

RISHARD KHAN

While firefighters spent over 13 hours trying to put out a fire on Sunday in Cunupia, a nearby community was counting its blessings after a large, twisted pipe, believed to have come from the burning building, crashed into two roofs, landing near a vehicle.

The pipe is believed to have rocketed into their community after an explosion at the burning warehouse.

Residents of Heritage Drive, Chin Chin Road, Cunupia, told Newsday the blaze at Alisha Marketing began between 10 pm and 11 pm on Saturday. Living on the street behind the warehouse, to its north, residents said they stayed up all night, keeping an eye on the situation.

Shareeza Ali-Sarran lives some 50 feet on the northwestern side of the warehouse. She said around 10.30 pm, she heard several loud explosions.

Her neighbour, Alvin Chadee, 70, lives 10 feet west of her. He also heard the loud explosions, which woke him. He said the loudest explosion occurred around 11.30 pm. That’s when, he said, his neighbour across the road alerted him of a large pipe in his yard near his vehicle.

He said it was a good thing he was inside at the time.

“You have to take cover. You hearing these objects blowing up and blowing up. There would be flying debris,” he said.

Sarran’s daughter, Sasha, also expressed shock that the large piece of metal travelled so far. They believe the piece of pipe rocketed out of the building, hit Sarran’s roof, then Chadee’s before coming to a rest in front of his vehicle. When Newsday visited Chadee shortly after midday, he said fire officers moved the pipe to the side for him to exit the compound to go to the market.

Divisional Fire Officer (DFO) Aldrin Alleyne was also surprised the piece of metal travelled such a distance and was thankful no one was injured.

He said teams from the Chaguanas, Couva and Wrightson Road Fire Stations responded to the blaze shortly before midnight, five minutes after they received the call. Living a few minutes away, he said he was the first on the scene. While he said they had no issues with the water supply to fight the fire, officers were challenged to gain access inside the building.

He said one firefighter was injured during the operation when he fell into a poorly secured manhole outside the building and was taken to the Chaguanas health facility for treatment.

There were no other injuries reported.

The officers were still on the scene when Newsday left the site around 1.30 pm on Sunday.

DFO Alleyne said the rubble from the burnt electrical supplies and the collapsing sections of the building were creating pockets that were challenging to put out.

“Most of the fire is beneath the rubble.

“We were trying to dig up beneath the rubble to see if we can get the pockets of fire but the whole thing is contained. It’s just below the rubble.”

He said a team of fire investigators led by DFO Arjoon visited the scene but could not give a definitive cause of the fire until the blaze was fully extinguished.

Alleyne said the damages to the building are estimated at $5 million and $12 million in stock.

A man who said he was related to the building’s owner declined an interview with Newsday at the scene until he had further information from the Fire Service. However, he said he was alerted to the fire around midnight and lamented they did not have insurance.