Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Massive Tyre Fire,Q8

A sea of tyres burns in a wall of flame in Rehaiya in Jahra yesterday

MPs, environmentalists slam govt for negligence – Fears for environment after massive tyre fire

Kuwait Times : Hundreds of firemen yesterday fought to contain a massive fire in a dump for used tyres in Rehaiya in Jahra, with some MPs calling the blaze an environmental catastrophe. Firemen from the national guard, the army and the oil sector joined efforts to extinguish the fire that was still raging hours after it broke out in the dump of more than five million tyres, the fire department said. The dump is 4 km from the Amghara scrap yard and 15 km from Saad Al-Abdullah city. Eighteen fire station centers were fighting the blaze and 200,000 gallons of water had been used so far.
Environment authorities advised residents in the area to stay away and to use masks, but the education ministry rejected calls by MPs to suspend classes at local schools. A number of MPs described the fire as an “environmental catastrophe” and vowed to demand a debate on the issue in a special parliamentary session next week. Some said they will demand an official probe. Medics said that six people were treated for minor burns.
Visiting the scene, Information Minister Sheikh Mohammed Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah stressed that the government will form a special committee to investigate the blaze as well as ask the municipality for an alternative site to be used as a landfill for used tyres away from residential areas. He said that the only merit about the disaster was the response of firemen, the municipality, the national guards, the ministry of interior, the ministry of health, Kuwait Oil Co (KOC) and the Environment Public Authority (EPA) that reported to the scene in record time to contain the fire and limit its damage. Jahra Governor Sheikh Mubarak Al-Humoud Al-Jaber vowed to control the fire before nightfall, adding that firefighters have built a barrier of sand to prevent the fire from spreading.
MPs demanded an investigation into the incident without excluding the possibility that it might be intentional nor exempting the government from responsibility because it failed to respond to repeated warnings. MP Faisal Al-Mislem vowed to demand a full investigation, since the fire resulted in toxic fumes. MP Mubarak Al-Waalan said that the fire was a real disaster that reflected the incapability of the government to manage crises and protect the environment. MP Hamad Al-Mattar, who was present at the site when the first fire engines arrived, urged the minister of education to temporarily close area schools. He also urged the prime minister to visit the site in person.
Education Minister Nayef Al-Hajraf said any decision to close schools today would be subject to a technical report on the areas affected by the toxic fumes. “If any, suspension will be limited to schools in Rehaiya,” he said at a press conference held at the Jahra educational zone directorate, emphasizing that reports have indicated that gas levels were so far within normal limits and that there was no need to shut schools. The acting undersecretary and assistant undersecretary for public education Mohammed Al-Kandari reassured parents that exams for students who were absent yesterday would be postponed. He also urged students with special health conditions to stay at home.
Khalid Al-Hajeri, Chairman of Green Line Environment Group – Kuwait blamed Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak for the environmental disaster. “Sheikh Jaber was the Chairman of the High Council for Environment since the 2004 till he became the prime minister, and he didn’t pay attention to the danger of collecting millions of damaged tyres without any environmental safety measures. His responsibility covers the disaster as he is the one to give orders to activate emergency plans,” he said a statement.
Hajeri also demanded that MPs should act seriously towards this environmental disaster, which put the lives of people in Jahra in danger. “Green Line will support the head of the environment committee in the parliament MP Matar if he decides to grill the ministers responsible for this disaster,” he said. He said Green Line is in contact with the residents of Jahra to counter the negligence of the government and parliament towards finding real solutions for disasters in Kuwait.
Hajeri also blamed the EPA as the first body in charge of inspecting and observing waste buried in the country. “EPA is responsible to set the necessary rules and conditions that enforces public authorities to execute them. EPA didn’t do this,” he charged. “Burnt tyres produce extremely dangerous and poisonous gases including carbon monoxide, which causes blood poisoning and carbon dioxide that can cause suffocation and death. The smoke also causes different kinds of diseases as it contains cancerous and toxic substances,” he explained.
Hajeri claimed Green Line was the only body in Kuwait that sent warning messages via social media to Jahra residents from the first minutes of the fire informing them of the best ways of facing this disaster, while other authorities including EPA were caught napping. Chairperson of Kuwait Voluntary Work Center Sheikha Amthal Al-Sabah said the center’s volunteers were ready to help. She said she called Kuwait Fire Services Director (KFSD) Maj Gen Jassem Al-Mansouri to offer the help of volunteers.
By A Saleh, B Izzak, Hanan Al-Saadoun, Nawara Fattahova and Barrak Al-Hindi

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