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Second explosion rocks Buenos Ayres *LINK*

BY RADHICA SOOKRAJ
http://www.guardian.co.tt

A second explosion rocked the quiet village of Buenos Ayres, Erin, on Saturday afternoon, shattering glass windows and raining pieces of metal on top of residents' homes.

Part of a metal tank flew about 2,000 yards through the air and sliced off part of a tree at the home of Errol Lewis.

A chandelier belonging to Nicole Parris fell on top of her glass table. Pensioner Synda Rawlins fainted and her relatives had to resuscitate her before they called an Emergency Health Service ambulance.

Lisa Henry said two of her back windows were shattered and pieces of metal canisters came hurtling inside her home.

Henry said this was the second explosion to have rocked the village in a week. The first occurred around 2 pm last Wednesday, but there was minor damage.

The effects of Saturday's explosion, which took place around 3 pm, were stronger.

She said old people had fallen ill and young children had been traumatised since the explosion.

Yesterday, scores of residents staged a protest in their village as they called for compensation for loss of property.

They are also calling on the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) to carry out tests in the area to determine if there were any toxic chemicals in the atmosphere.

Fire prevention officers, led by Asst Divisional Fire Officer Curwin Callender visited the scene yesterday and took debris samples.

Callender said the explosion occurred while Halliburton International was allegedly attempting to dispose of expired explosives at Whiteman's quarry, about 100 metres from Buenos Ayres.

Callender said from preliminary information, it seemed the detonation occurred accidentally. He said the explosives were in canisters and were to be "submerged in fuel."

Asked whether the Fire Service had been informed of the disposal exercise, Callender said, "No."

He said a detailed investigation was being carried out to determine whether any procedure had been violated.

Residents said last Wednesday they noticed strange vehicles entering the quarry site.

"I saw three oblong-shaped green tanks and other vehicles heading there, and I wondered what they were carrying.

"It was only when the first explosion occurred we realised it was explosives," Henry said.

Louisa Albert, 80, said she had been feeling unwell since the second explosion. Grace Scipio said her daughter Crystal, 10, had to be taken to a doctor and her son Ashton, seven, who suffers from a heart condition,was also unwell.

Scipio said the disposal was being supervised by the Defence Force, whose Capt Kester Weekes assured yesterday that there would be no further explosions.

He said: "Incineration is usually a safe process, but it seems there was a breakdown in communication and that was why residents did not know explosives were being disposed of so close to their home."

Halliburton's service co-ordinator for tools and testing, Robin Gopaulsingh, and health, safety and environment officer, Richard Marquez, visited the residents' homes yesterday and surveyed the damage.

Gopaulsingh said they had more than 39 reports.

The EMA's corporate communications officer, Kirk Jean-Baptiste, could not be reached for comment.

2003-2004 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

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