By Momodou Jarju & Nelson Manneh
Officials of the Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) have told journalists that the Sunday fire incident at the Bakoteh dumpsite was allegedly caused by three minors.
Reading a statement at a press conference on Monday at the chambers of KMC, Mayor Talib Bensouda, said on Sunday 15th March 2020 around 10am, his Municipal Police reported to him that three trespassers who were identified as minors started the fire at the Bakoteh dumpsite.
Mayor Bensouda said the dumpsite attendant informed the Director of Services, Lamin Sanyang, who informed the fire and rescue services.
“Kotu Fire Service was able to respond by mid-day. By this time the fire had spread out of control and engulfed recycled cans and other recyclable materials. I was also notified that the fire service was active and on-scene to quell the fire,” he said.
Commissioner of Police, Mr. Malanding Ceesay, said the minors were accompanied by their parents for interviews and during the interviews, they confessed to causing the fire. He said one of the ages of the children is 12 years.
“Normally, these kids would be accompanied with their parents and we will interview them. And during the course of the interview they confessed to setting fire to these huge wastes at the dumpsite,” he said.
Ceesay said the minors were allowed to go home with their parents as they are investigating the matter and upon their completion they would forward the case to the children unit of the Gambia Police Force to deal with the matter.
Speaking in Wolof, Mayor Talib Bensouda said fire incidents disturb them a lot, especially to the residents of Bakoteh because they are directly affected.
He said they have budgeted for the construction of a perimeter fence at the dumpsite and before the end of 2020, the fence would be ready. He said over 10 million dalasis is budgeted for the fencing project.
He said they have tendered but they have realized if they want to follow the Gambia Public Procurement Authority’s process of acquiring the necessary materials or resources, it would take time, which they don’t have now.
He said they have met the authority and engaged them in a bid to expedite the process by removing the bureaucracy involved.
He said the fire incidents are usually caused by either the minors or people who play at the site or others scavenging for scrap metals.
He said some of them would want to burn materials to scavenge scrap metals which may results to fire outbreak.
“That’s why we are pleading to the residents around the dumpsite, whose children go there to play to help the council by not allowing their children to go there to play. Bakoteh dumpsite is not a place to play. It’s a working place and the site has many chemicals etc.” he said.
He recalled that last year a minor was playing at the dumpsite and unfortunately died there, an incident he said the council regretted.
Mayor Bensouda said he went to the site on Sunday to inspect and meet with the local residents who were affected.
“I instructed the CEO to provide all the resources required to extinguish the fire, including water tankers. I continued to coordinate our response in order to have a mass response and we also left a number of municipal police to monitor the situation overnight,” he said.
Mr. Bensouda said the fire was out of control and encroaching on a petrol station, which they have previously complained about. He also said the community informed them that they were unable to sleep all night and were understandably upset, while adding that they know the residents are frustrated and tired.
Bensouda further said their community service officers are working with the Councilor of Bakoteh to provide the community with water, masks and other essential provisions. The Mayor assured the people of Bakoteh that they will not sleep until they put in place necessary measures.
“KMC has already planned a number of interventions including a perimeter wall and to work with a Waste Processing partner and locate separate area where we can develop a sanitary landfill,’ he said.