By C.Y. Kwanue
The fire that wrecked the National Drug Service (NDS) department at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center (JFKMC) in Monrovia on Tuesday was far from being totally extinguished as of yesterday.
Our reporter who visited the scene yesterday morning observed that the fire continues to smolder from the debris in the basement of the burnt out unit that previously housed the Essential Drugs Program (EDP) warehouse #2.
The fire completely destroyed the warehouse demolishing the laboratory department and all the essential medical supplies and equipment that were stored in the building.
Our reporter further noted that none of the JFK employees could be seen making any attempt to put out the remaining flames. Neither were any of the hospital’s authorities available to speak to the Daily Observer as the handful of personnel hanging around the facility pretended to be busy reconnecting some of the burnt electrical wires to the building.
A security officer, on condition of anonymity, told this newspaper how the flames became intense, engulfing the entire building including the outer walls on Tuesday night.
“I was not on shift that fateful Tuesday, but my colleagues on duty told us that there was power outage on the entire compound. Both our electricity supply from the Liberian Electricity Corporation (LEC) and our own standby generator were off. By then those who were doing some welding jobs around the facility in the day had earlier left. So the security is helping with the investigation,” our source narrated.
Up to press time last night, the Ministry of Health’s Communications Department could not ascertain the cause of the fire, but said they were continuing investigations into the disaster.
Public Affairs Director Sorbor George said, “Basically, we don’t have new information about the how the incident occurred on Tuesday, but what I can confirm is that our personnel are doing a comprehensive assessment to determine the level of damage to the country’s only drugs testing laboratory.”
He promised to inform the public as soon as the investigation into the cause of the fire and the level of damage sustained are established.
Mr. George said the laboratory was used by the hospital to test the quality and usefulness of all medicines entering the country before they were dispatched to other health centers.
“The public should be assured of government’s preparedness to supply drugs to all health facilities from other sources, either from outside or from within,” he said.
The fire started at 9 p.m. on Tuesday night and took firefighters more than three hours to bring the situation under control, but is not completely extinguished, a source at the hospital said.
Eyewitnesses said huge clouds of smoke and flames sent residents on 20th and 24th Streets in Sinkor looking for help, and many joined neighbors to put out the fire, before firefighters from the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) arrived to begin extinguishing the flames.
The UNMIL firefighters’ efforts, according to information, were joined after half an hour by the Liberian National Fire Service, who came and observed the situation before returning with a truck of water to join the fight.
Officers of the Liberia National Police combined efforts with UN firefighting officers to put out the fire.
Up to yesterday morning smoke continued to billow over the entire facility from flames consuming the remaining debris.