By: Aaron Humes
BELIZE CITY, Wednesday 30th January 2019
Residents of the villages of Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa in the Stann Creek District spent a scary uncomfortable Monday evening and Tuesday following a major fire at the processing plant of Belize Aquaculture Limited, located at Mile 4 on the Placencia Road.
Though there were no evacuations ordered, the Fire Service and National Emergency Management Organization warned villagers from the Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa villages to take precautionary measures if necessary , should the smell of burning, caustic odor of ammonia, which is a poisonous combination reaches their area since chemicals were stored inside one of the buildings that was on fire on Monday afternoon.
Villagers speaking to the press reported seeing a thick column of smoke coming from the plant around 4:00 p.m. Firefighters from nearby Placencia and Independence villages responded shortly after, but by the time they arrived the fire was already out of control so the responders focus on keeping it contained to the one affected building. Investigators from the National Fire Service remained on the ground until Thursday trying to find out what could have caused the fire. They will make their findings public upon completion.
B.A.L., through its parent company Bowen and Bowen Limited, released a statement on Monday evening, reporting that “The positive is that the hatchery and infrastructure including farms were are not affected so the production schedule planned to start in February will still go ahead as planned .” It indicated that the site where the fire began is not clear.
The affected concrete structure with steel frame had been closed since March 2018 and secured, according to reports. It was primarily used for storage and included empty office spaces, three cold storage rooms and a small warehouse at the southern end containing packaging materials.
Last March, B.A.L. dismissed 100 employees in a cost-cutting measure related to ongoing issues caused by disease in the industry. The Ministry of Agriculture said at the time it was working closely with the company and fellow shrimp producers to find solutions to the issue.