Dec 2, 2009

Rum Stocks Safe for Xmas Despite Fire at Wray & Nephew

Emergency crews are fighting spent most of last night fighting a massive fire at a section of Wray and Nephew Limited on Spanish Town Road in Kingston. The fire sent jitters throughout the trade ahead of the Christmas season when demand for the company’s popular liquor products hits peak. But no one was injured in the blaze, although employees who watched helplessly from outside the premises estimated that millions of dollars worth of goods went in the flames.

The Ministry of Transport and Works last night opened up the Portmore Toll Road to toll-free traffic up to midnight, to reduce congestion in the Spanish Town Road area of Kingston created by a major fire at the Wray and Nephew plant.

The fire started at about 6 p.m. and was still in progress four hours later. Prime Minister Bruce Golding and Minister responsible for Information, the Hon. Daryl Vaz, were among a number of Government ministers who rushed to the scene.

“The whole of this place under fire. At least three warehouses under fire over there, and that is just based on how the thing look from out here so,” said a male employee, behind a long hiss as he spoke about a Christmas bonus that was scheduled to be paid in coming weeks.

“We don’t know what is going to happen now; is over here so I work,” he said, pointing to the rum company’s offices on the opposite side of Spanish Town Road. “But to the way how this fire look everybody is going to feel it. We don’t know what we going to hear tomorrow (today).”

The fire started about 6:00 pm in a section of the warehouse where wooden barrels used to store rum are repaired, according to a female security guard, who said she assisted employees in trying to extinguish the fire in its early stages.

She said the blaze, fuelled by the liquor — some of which workers said were being stored in the facility for more than 30 years — proved too much for herself and the handful of workers to handle, and quickly spread to other buildings.

“I was just about to go on patrol duty and all of a sudden I see the fire in the warehouse. About 10 of us tried to out it with the little extinguishers and water but it couldn’t stop, and is that time we call in the fire brigade,” said the woman, pointing to the bright flames which by then had towered above the buildings.

Hundreds of residents of the neighbouring Waterhouse community braved the sweltering heat and lined streets outside the burning premises to watch as firefighters, using cranes, attempted to confine the blaze.

Some of the residents, though untrained, used expletives as they gave ‘instructions’ on how firefighters could be more effective in fighting the blaze.

Police had to block off sections of the usually busy Spanish Town Road during the blaze, causing heavy traffic jams in both directions on the dual carriageway.

However, the operators of Highway 2000 later agreed to allow motorists free passage along the Portmore/Kingston leg of the high-speed expressway, which helped to clear the jam on Spanish Town Road.

SOURCE: Jamaica Observer, JIS


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