BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, August 30, 2007 – Five days after a section of an apartment block collapsed through the roof of a cave on which it was constructed, the first bodies of five people buried have been recovered.
The body of the mother and a male child were found by workers at one of the locations indicated by a sniffer dog from the Miami Dade search and rescue unit on Monday morning.
Thirty-year old Donavera Codrington and his 27-year-old wife, Cassandra, and three of their four children, aged, 1, 3, and 7 were asleep when their apartment, in a three-apartment block, plunged into the 100-foot cave in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The fourth child, a three-month old was staying with relatives and was not at home at the time of the collapse.
The specialised search and rescue team from Miami arrived on the scene, at Brittons Cross Road, Sunday night and by early Monday morning, one dog which is trained to detect life found nothing. The other dog trained to detect death, pinpointed two sections in the rubble where the bodies lay.
The area in Brittons Cross Road where the apartment was constructed overlooked the southwest coast of Barbados but beneath were caves running in two directions.
A 500-foot exclusion zone was created from the centre of the collapse and residents were evacuated. Two nearby schools, St Paul’s Primary and St Cyprian, were also being relocated.
The incident has raised many questions including why was planning permission granted for the apartments to be constructed on top of caves and will there now be safety checks of all other homes in Barbados which were permitted to be constructed on top of these caverns. One major question Barbadians are asking is whether the planning department does checks for caves when they are approving building applications.
Another is the rationale for diverting the head of the Accident and Emergency Department of the hospital, Dr Brian Charles, to become an incident commander rather than leave the job to emergency management officials or the Barbados Emergency Management Agency.
Neighbours reported hearing a rumbling noise, like a rock fall, in the early hours of Sunday morning. One neighbour said she was awakened by the noise and roused her husband who could find nothing suspicious and went back to bed. Just before daybreak the same neighbour heard the noise again but much louder and became scared.
As it was daylight, she stepped outside her house to be greeted with shock and horrors. She was in time to see another section of the three-apartment block cave in.
“Everything humanly possible is being done,” said Owen Arthur, the prime minister of Barbados.
The ruling Barbados Labour Party cancelled a mass political meeting that was scheduled to be held in the Britton’s Hill area Sunday night.
Barbados is presently in elections preparation mode.
The prime minister as well as the leader of the opposition Democratic Labour Party David Thompson visited the incident site.