Chief Fire Officer Marlon Smith has said that the Fire Services has not granted permission to party promoter Karukera One Love (KOL) to construct a stage in the sea.
The international company that promotes Caribbean culture and music throughout the French West Indies and Europe since 2017, chose the North Coast’s Maracas Bay to hold its 2020 festival on February 21.
However, their move to construct a stage in the sea for the fete has raised safety concerns within several quarters.
On Friday, KOL said it received permission from all appropriate registry agencies to build the stage in that locale. This included the police and fire services, the Environmental Management Authority and the Commissioner of State Lands.
In a statement, KOL said its team consisted of a specialised team of engineers and all necessary verifications and meticulous checks were done to ensure maximum safety to all. However, there was no mention of exactly what was being built, that being a stage.
Events planner Jules Sobion, whose company Caesar’s Army is helping to produce the event, also said they received the requisite approvals.
However, Smith said no approval was given.
“I don’t know that they got any approval from the Fire Services. The Fire Services’ permission is they could build their stage on the beach. Maracas has some issues with undercurrents, people who have lost their lives in the water. If the stage is in the water and somebody wants to go in then we would have some problems right there.”
Smith said it would be safer if people were to injure themselves on the beach because if they go in the water they will be on their own.
“To say the Fire Services gave permission to have an event in the sea, that is a different issue. Having a Carnival event and going on a stage in the sea, the Fire Service has a concern about that. We wouldn’t encourage that at all. A structure in the water is something we would not encourage at all.”
Smith said his fire prevention officers are the ones who would have been approached to oversee any fire and safety concerns of the public. He said in the process an inspection is a prerequisite.
Told that the group said they received permission, Smith asked that they produce the evidence in writing and a certificate of approval. “I have not approved any such document.”
Police Commissioner Gary Griffith said the police is the last line as it pertains to approval for the event.
“We are awaiting the relevant stakeholders to do their due diligence and when they make their statement then the TTPS will get involved. The TTPS has not given approval or denial. We are hearing a lot of information being passed between state bodies pertaining to this event. As of this time, it is still to be confirmed for the police to give such approval.”
Griffith said as far as permission for the event itself, the promoters had to go before the court to apply for a bar licence and for the number of officers they felt were required to ensure the safety of patrons. This, he said, has not yet been done.
Duty meteorologist Kiran Sedoo said in the days leading up to the event from February 18 to 20, low level pressures will bring rough and choppy waters with long period swells.
He said the Met office has been monitoring conditions for the past several days.
“For these events we try to confirm with the ferry captains from the exposed coasts, the northern coast and in and around Tobago, the wave heights and swells when we are issuing our bulletins. What we are experiencing right now is not strange for this time of the year. The long period swells should keep more to the east of us.”
Sedoo said with any significant change in the weather, the Met office will issue a warning bulletin.
When Sunday Newsday visited Maracas Bay on Saturday afternoon, construction of the stage was ongoing with rough waves battering the structure. Several beach-goers curiously watched the process with some using their smartphones to record.
Several calls made to Sobion on Saturday went unanswered.
The Urban Development Corporation on Thursday (Udecott) which maintains the beach facility on Thursday called for an immediate halt of the construction of the stage.
However, on Friday, Sobion said they never received any order to cease operations.
“We did not that instruction to cease. We are actually following up with Udecott at this point in time to see where that came from.”
Udecott chairman Noel Garcia, on Friday, said KOL got permission to hold the event on the condition that they get approval from the registry authorities such as the EMA, the police, fire and Commissioner of State Lands.
“I can’t stop them, but the registry authorities certainly can. I will tell you what my personal opinion is. I think to put a stage in the sea couldn’t possibly be a good idea having regard to what beach it is, and that’s Maracas, the time of year it is and the wave conditions. I don’t think that’s a good idea.”