Help us rebuild, please!

BUFF BAY, Portland — Some of the 21 people who were left homeless by a fire in this town on Jamaica’s north-eastern coast on March 21, 2021 are appealing for help to rebuild.

“I am asking for assistance from anyone. None of us have anywhere to stay, even young mothers and pregnant ladies,” Nadesse Valentine told the Jamaica Observer on Tuesday, adding that donations of building supplies would be appreciated.

“Twenty-one of us live here nine children and 12 adults. Everything burn up. I lost everything, all my ID dem. I went to the Ministry of Labour but they need an ID so I have to get a letter from the fire service,” she explained and asked anyone willing to help to contact her at 876-560-8247.

Seventy-nine-year-old Loretta “Geta” Mitchell made a similar appeal. “We want some help, man. We all gone live a different people house. We need some help so we can fix up. Mi a beg some help,” she said.

Mitchell said she was inside her room when her great-grandson ran in, telling his mother that the bed of another occupant of the house was on fire. Both she and the boy’s mother ran outside, turned a tap on but there was no water.

“People come with buckets with water and a throw. I run come back to my room and I couldn’t even see as to how the room dark. All I could do is feel the window and the whatnot and find the TV and mi grab it. I don’t even know if it good. Mi come pon di verandah and mi seh ‘God, inna fi mi old age yah now fi go mek up another house,’ and mi feel like somebody come and hold mi and mi leggo the TV inna somebody hand and mi start to bawl,” Mitchell said as tears welled in her eyes.

She said, among the belongings she lost was her asthma medication.

Andrea Jones-Gayle, another occupant, said when she heard people shouting ‘fire!’ she ran to her room with a bucket of water.

“When I go around there the whole room was on fire and I throw the water. I go back for another bucket and when I return the fire was in the kitchen. I go back to my room and I said to my daughter ‘Try tek out something… and she start tek out some things, like for the baby, but them still burn up because we never get to go far,” Jones-Gayle said.

Christopher Morgan shared his experience. “I was at the front here and a little youth run come and say fire on his mother bed. By the time I rush and go around there I see the fire… I couldn’t do anything towards that fire as it got out of control. We panic, and some people call the fire service. Five different families live here.”

Valentine said that since the blaze, they have received mattresses from representatives of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.

She also said representatives from the Salvation Army and the Seventh-day Adventist Church had come by with food.

The Portland Fire Service has estimated the losses at $3.5 million. However, the survivors believe the figure is far too low. The house was not insured.

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