Sime Darby Plantations Company says it is conducting “medical census” inside its estates to identify people who may have been affected, but failed to report for medication after a fire disaster that struck its chemical and fertilizer warehouses at the plantations on Sunday morning in Clay District of Bomi County, Western Liberia.
Sime Darby’s communication officer David Kolleh ruled out suspicion of arson against the company, rather telling journalists on Monday, 21 September that the company suspected electric shock because the incident occurred not during the regular working day.
At the time of a news conference, Mr. Kolleh said the company had no confirmed incident of the hospitalization of victims, except a bulldozer operator who, he said, fell down and was taken to the hospital after operating the machine and extinguishing the fire.
Mr. Kolleh said the Company’s engineering team was conducting assessment of the level of property damage to begin repair work where needed. There were reports of other victims being transferred from Sime Darby Clinic to Mawah Clinic in Monrovia, with claims that some were complaining of their inability to see.
But Mr. Kolleh said, in response, that the information was actually news to him, adding that the SDPL’s health team was doing everything, along with the company’s medical team to address and take anyone discovered to the clinic or a referral hospital where necessary.
“When I talked about human casualty, I was referring to death; there was no death reported; whether these people, as a result of the chemical, got affected and they are currently undergoing treatment, we wish the family best. We wish them speedy recovery. Sime Darby is going to underwrite the cost – the medical cost for all of them,” he assured.
The NewDawn identified the photos of two hospitalized men, displayed by a local journalist who had just returned from the plantations. Until the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA, Health Ministry and Liberia National Police conduct assessments at the incident scene, Mr. Kolleh noted, the company has put in place safety measures, including the provision of drinking water for the locals, as well as suspending school for at least two days, among others.
He indicated that the company had reports of the death of livestock or anyone on the plantations following the incident. He said the affected building is presently being assessed by the company’s engineering team, following which the repair work will begin shortly.
The Company spokesman clarified that prior to the incident, they had no differences with workers, and that the company does not intend to link the latest fire incident to arson. “Our suspicion is that this may have been a result of electric shock, because it was [not] on our usual working day on Sunday – no one was working; the place was quiet and the team may have presumed that it was a result of electric shock,” he said, describing the situation as very unfortunate and isolated, and that the company was working around the clock to ensure that there is no repeat.
According to him, the company plans to de-congest chemical warehouses in the near future so that when something happens, it does not spill over to the next warehouse. “We call on all of our employees to remain calm, as the Management is doing everything so that normal work at the Plantation Office can recommence,” Mr. Kolleh said.
By Winston W. Parley – Edited by George Barpeen