Investigation launched into landfill blaze |06 March 2023
An investigation is being launched in a fire that occurred yesterday morning at the Providence landfill, precisely where the Land Waste Management Agency (LWMA) dumps old vehicle tyres.
It is the first landfill fire for this year after two fire incidents that took place last year.
Yesterday’s fire, which broke out at around 11.45am, was brought under control four hours later.
The deputy chief executive of LWMA, Rahul Mangroo, said that the agency has doubts over the fire as everything was fine just 15 minutes before the fire was reported. He noted that the landfill is open for half day on Sundays.
“We did the last check from 11.20am to 11.30am and everything was under control only to be alerted at 11.45am that a fire has started and was spreading rapidly. I find it very strange for a fire to start in the tyres and to spread that quickly and this leads us to believe that it was intentionally started. But as we do not have any proof we will wait for the outcome of the investigation,” Mr Mangroo said.
He noted that the agency did try to contain the fire in the first place with some of its machinery on site until firefighters from the Seychelles Fire & Rescue Services Agency (SFRSA) arrived, followed later by other partners.
He stated that the tyres were stockpiled in the area as part of an ongoing tyre crushing project.
Thick black smoke from the fire was seen up in the sky from miles away and according to the SFRSA, they were alerted of the fire at 11.58am and immediately dispatched eight firefighters in two fire tenders and a water bowser.
The public relations officer of SFRSA, Terence Arnephy, said that given the intensity of the fire, they had to dispatch an additional twelve men as back up to deal with the situation. They also received the support of the Disaster & Risk Management Division (DRMD), the Police, the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority’s (SCAA) fire and rescue division, LWMA and from the department of Environment.
Also present to bring their support were the Minister for Internal Affairs, Roy Fonseca; the Minister for Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment, Flavien Joubert and the Minister for Land and Housing, Billy Rangasamy.
“We did not have major difficulties as such to deal with the fire given that we had the support from our partners. The only difficulty we encountered was a lack of foam water to put the fire under control. The pressure in the water hydrant was too low and we had to pump sea water from the marsh for us to be able to contain the fire,” Mr Arnephy said.
He stated that the smoke from yesterday’s fire was more intense and more toxic than from the two previous landfill fires given that it was rubber tyres that were burning and there was no damage or loss of lives.
He added that the cause of the fire will be investigated.
Florence Sirame from public health said that given the intense and toxic smoke, especially over the Cascade district and Providence, they conducted an evaluation of the level of toxicity of the smoke and found that it was not necessary to evacuate anybody especially the Cascade residents. She noted that only four GOP holders, who are living not far from the proximity of fire, were evacuated.
It is to be noted also that the animals at the Pet Haven animal welfare centre were also evacuated for a length of time in case the fire spreaded and also as a precaution against the smoke.
As the highway was completely closed down for the whole of last night, Police Superintendent Antoine Denousse said that the Providence highway starting from the roundabout going South will remain closed to traffic today while the road going down to Victoria from the Seychelles International Airport will be open for traffic until further notice.
The principal risk management officer, Daniel Cetoupe, said that they set up two command post centres – on site and at the DRMD office – the combination of which worked very well in assisting all partners to contain the fire.
The three ministers present congratulated the partners for their collaborative efforts in putting the fire under control and preventing it from spreading.
“There is no guarantee that a fire will not happen again on the landfill but if it does happen we know that we have structures in place to contain it very quickly and to prevent it from spreading,” Minister Joubert said.
Although under control, the fire was still burning last night and according to Mr Arnephy, it was being fought and monitored by around 40 firefighting personnel.
Text & photos by Patrick Joubert