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May 20, 2013

More fired in Cayo…this time at St. Hilda’s

Residents of the twin towns of Santa Elena and San Ignacio, and even as far as Belmopan, have been complaining for weeks now about the smoke which seems to permeate everything. But for one school in Georgeville in the Cayo District, the situation is a lot more serious. The school is built on a hill on the roadside, which means that there is nowhere for students to have any sort of recreation. Three years ago they received an offer of sawdust to use as landfill to level the ground, and it seemed to be heaven sent. The offer was genuine and the intention by the school’s administration was good. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions, or so they say. Mike Rudon was at the school today and has the story.


Mike Rudon, Reporting

Three years ago the sawdust used to level the ground of St. Hilda’s School seemed like a great idea, but today it’s not looking so good. When we arrived at the school we found students hard at work trying to extinguish fires on their compound, or at least trying to do something to make a really bad situation a little better.


Lucilla Guerra, Teacher, St. Hilda’s School

Lucilla Guerra

“About three years ago, they offered us some filling for the land because we had no space for the children to have sports and play so we thought that it would be a good idea. After three years, we’ve come to learnt that it is not in reality a good idea because somebody from a nearby clinic or so started the fire close by and it jumped into the saw dust and we have been experiencing this bad smoke.”


Mike Rudon

“I know some of the kids have asthma and dehn kinda thing. Tell me about it has affected them.”


Lucilla Guerra

“Really, really bad because for example some of them are coughing, complaining about the pain in their lungs and different things. They are sneezing and I think it is really affecting us.”


There are approximately four hundred students in the school, and for the past three weeks they have been forced to endure these conditions…heavy smoke filling their classrooms from the sawdust which caught fire three weeks ago and is still burning. The Fire Department has done as much as it can, and so have these students, but their cries for help from Area Representative Rene Montero, who is also the Minister of Works, have fallen on deaf ears.


Voice of: Fidel Castanedas, Substation Officer

“Presently, the Georgeville Primary School, we have the whole compound is filled with sawdust at a height of about five feet and it has been burning for about three weeks now. We have been there almost weekly trying to deal with the situation but unfortunately it is beyond our control. The only solution for that sawdust to be fully extinguish is by removing it.”


Lucilla Guerra

“They have been helping us tremendously. They have been coming here five six times for the day almost every day and I believe that they are getting tired. And our principal Miss Bennett, she has been trying to get in touch with the minister, Mister Montero, and lot of excuses and we have been unable to get in touch with him to help us to maybe a machine to turn over the sawdust because it seems like it is trapped under the ground. Even if they wet on the top, a little while after that becomes dry and it starts to smoke all over again.”


Mike Rudon

“Then you were telling me that even church they had to cancel over the weekend.”


Lucilla Guerra

“Oh yes, we had to cancel church yesterday services because father couldn’t take the smoke. So we have to leave.”


According to Guerra, some students have been forced to stay home because of the heavy smoke blanketing the school. Chief of Staff at the San Ignacio Hospital told us that there is no doubt that the health of the students will suffer from the smoke.


Misael Ramirez

Misael Ramirez, Chief of Staff, San Ignacio Hospital

“It will be eye irritations. Second will be the pollution of the air; less oxygen will affect their attention as well. It is rare for me because I do not get any information about it official from a doctor that we have located in Georgeville Health Center; we have a doctor there. I do not receive any complaints from the doctor that he has had so much respiratory cases. But nevertheless noh it is good to note and I’ll check to find out if any increasing cases of respiratory infection or respiratory problem in that area.”


Lucilla Guerra

“We can’t do anything at all and I am sure that everybody is aware of the big smoke that we have here. And our principal has informed us that she has been trying to call Ministry of Works and the Minister who is responsible for Ministry of Works and other sources to help us with machinery maybe probably to turn over the sawdust and get it wet…but no help at all.”


We left students frantically trying to put out the fires which got worse while we were at the school. Guerra says that if they get no help, they may have to close the school for now. Mike Rudon for News Five.


When we passed the school this evening on the way back from San Ignacio, the school was completely obscured by smoke, invisible from the highway. 

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5 Responses for “More fired in Cayo…this time at St. Hilda’s”

  1. Storm says:

    If we had a Minister of Health, he could investigate and save the situation here. It’s wrong to force children to become sick in order to get an education. The community should be protesting to the elected leaders.



  3. raul guevara says:

    Rene Montero won the elections, now that the people need his help, he has gone hidding.

  4. Neville says:

    @raul guevara, if you re-read the first two items about the BDF soldier stabbed in Barbados, you’d see that Rene Montero was there!

  5. Seletar says:

    Looking back, it doesn’t seem so smart to have used a flammable material — WOOD SAWDUST! — as landfill surrounding a schoolhouse. I can’t imagine that’s ever a wise choice, since it will always be wood, waiting to burn.

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