An estimated $150 million in damage was incurred, and 45 employees displaced after fire gutted the Trincity Industrial Estate warehouses of JMH Enterprises Sunday night. The blaze gutted four warehouses which contained rice, cooking oil, saltfish and sugar, along with counter tops, and kitchen appliances.
In addition, three vans, eight trucks, four cars and containers were also destroyed in the blaze.
The loss of the goods is sure to have an effect on the nation’s supermarkets, but in an interview with managing director of JMH, Christopher James, Newsday was told that the fire could have been avoided if fire services were better equipped.
Newsday interviewed James yesterday as he watched buildings which had been in operation since 1978, burn to the ground.
“Had there been 20 minutes of steady water for the fire-fighters, this fire would have been contained; but the fire trucks had to go back and forth for water. When we closed up last Friday, we left everything as normal. Nothing was put in a different place, everything was normal.”
James told Newsday that he received a call from a fellow tenant at the Industrial Estate at about 8.30 pm, telling him that his warehouse was on fire. The tenant said he noticed smoke coming out of the building at about 8 pm and alerted fire services.
By the time he got to the warehouses, one of the four was already gutted and fire was spreading to the second. Fire services tried to gain access to the warehouse but experienced difficulty. By 11 pm, all the buildings were consumed by fire.
James said supermarket shelves are expected to be scarce of the vital food items because JMH is a major supplier to groceries.
“Close to 50 percent of the rice that is supplied to supermarkets comes from our company,” said James “We still have goods coming from off the port, but that may only last a short time.”
James added that most distributors collected goods on Friday last, in anticipation of the long weekend, and the company has goods at the port and more coming in the next couple of weeks. However, the residual goods may not be enough to supply the nation in the manner it is accustomed to. James and the rest of the executive of JMH now have to find the means to rebuild as fast as possible. Newsday was told the displaced staff was asked to meet at the warehouse to discuss what could be done for them. James also noted that some of the goods, and vehicles were insured, but the returns would not be nearly enough to cover the cost of rebuilding and restocking the warehouses. Newsday attempted to reach the Supermarkets Association of Trinidad and Tobago, but calls to several members went unanswered. Fire prevention services are now trying to ascertain the cause of the fire.