Gov’t looking to build houses for central Kingston fire victims
While visiting the victims of Monday's fire on Smith Lane and James Street in central Kingston yesterday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that before any construction of new homes can begin, the Government has to establish the ownership of the lands.
"We do have the new social housing programme which assists persons with new housing solutions and we are going to intervene ... and we will put some new units. Before we do that we have to establish who owns the land. There are several lots like these where the owners have migrated and persons take them over. But we always have to respect people's property rights. So we will have to engage the owners of the property and to acquire it," he said.
At least 30 persons are homeless following an early morning fire on Monday that destroyed at least six houses. Several residents were vocal about the gang violence that has been plaguing their space. They called for a zone of special operations, as they believe it would be instrumental in bringing calm. They said that activities such as playing football have been stalled for months as persons are afraid of venturing on the streets. Residents also remain adamant that Monday's fire was as a result of arson. But Commander for the Kingston Central Police Division, Superintendent Berrisford Williams, told THE STAR that currently there is no indication that suggests an arson attack.
"We have not been able to convert any evidence to support that. It is early days in our investigations and we are open to other evidence. We have been in the space, even at the time when the fire started we have been in the space. We have increased our presence as we have been having conflict in the space and we are targeting some of the players who we believe are involved," he said. But irate residents, including Sophia Grant, are adamant that they had to take cover from gunshots as they fled their homes.
"When mi fly my door a bare gunshots, weh dem a tell mi say? A brave heart mi take and try draw out mi tings dem outta di fire. Weh di police a say and dem never deh here? Mi can't see nutten but yuh see where di shot dem a fire, it is just as close as mi. We born inna it so we can stay here suh and gunshot a fire up deh so and we know if somebody dead based on how it sound. Gunshot buss because di man dem never wah di people dem come out a dem house. So nuh police can't tell we anything because dem never deh here," she said angrily.
Hours before the prime minister arrived, the police conducted an operation along Smith Lane. Four men were also taken into custody.