Nine Wounded In Sime Darby Explosion, As Residents Warned “not to drink from Wells, Pumps”

At least nine people sustained injuries following an explosion at one of Sime Darby’s Plantation Chemical Warehouses in the company’s Plantation Office, in Bomi County.

According to a press release from the Extractive Media Watch, a local rights group, the incident occurred on Sunday, September 20, 2015 at about 10: 00 AM. The cause of the fire is still unknown but the company said a “team of investigators from the Government of Liberia is invstigating the matter to ascertain the circumstances leading to the incident.”

The management of Sime Darby Plantation Liberia (SDPL) has expressed “regret” about the incident. The company has also shutdown normal academy activity at one of schools on the plantation (Married Camp School) and has initiated a “health survey” to determine the condition of the residents.

According to one of the victims, Augustine Tangbeh, a yellow machine operator, “when the fire began, we all ran from the scene to safety. However, our bosses asked us to form a ten man committee to help to quench the fire, by using the excavator to breakdown the gate of the warehouse and spray the fire with water.

In the process, I did not know what happened to me but I saw myself lying on a hospital bed. I was told that I went unconscious and was taking to the Sime Darby Clinic where I received first aid treatment.”

Tangbah complained of severe pain in the eyes, nose and throat. He also complained of chest pain and headache and wants the management of SDPL to send him for further medical treatment.

Another victim, Tamba Fayaid is a contractor {fertilizer offloaded} at SDPL, he said this from his sick bed; “we were offloading fertilizers form the truck when we learnt that there was fire in the main yard. I was part of the ten man committee that was setup to cutoff the fire.   As soon as we went closer to the chemical warehouse, there was a loud explosion, I felt something hitting me on my face and on my side, than I dropped to the ground. As I speak to you I cannot see and I am feeling serious pain in the body, I want to see an eye doctor, I want to see an eye doctor,” he lamented.

The two individual are not the only persons that sustained severe injuries from the chemical spilled at SDPL. Other injured are, Jerry Sumo, Sam Appleton, Konah Yakpawolo amongst others.

Some of the residents who spoke to our reporter complained of headache and body pain. They noted that the explosion was very loud, producing black smoke which spread across the community, leaving the area with bad order.

Fatu Kandah is a 12th grade student at Sime Darby high school and a resident of Married Camp, when the incident occurred, I was afraid and begun running to safety. Later, I started experiencing headache and running stomach, I did not know what really happened.

Shortly after the incident, the company warned on community members in the vicinity of the explosion not to “drink water from wells and hand pumps.” They were also warned to wear nose masks for their safety.

However,  the residents were seen complaining about the lack of safe drinking water. They called on the company to supply them with water until the situation is brought under control.

In a statement the company said “SDPL regrets the incident of fire on one of its chemical and fertilizer warehouses, which also damaged several other properties at the plantation office, in Clay District, Bomi County.   

A joint team of forensic investigators from the government are currently conducting an investigation to ascertain the cause of the fire. We called on all employees to remain calm as the management is doing everything so that normal work at the Plantation Office can recommence,” the statement concluded.

On Tuesday, September 22, 2015, the Public Relation Manager of SDPL, Mr. David Kolleh said the company has referred some of the victims to Mawa Clinic and SDA Cooper Hospital for further medical examination.

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