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Earthquake scare for hospital patients

Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Security guards who evacuated the San Fernando General Hospital during yesterday’s earthquake. Photo by:Rishi Ragoonath

Clutching her three young children and her mother who had suffered a stroke, Traci Cort fled the 15th floor of the San Fernando Teaching Hospital as the tremors from a 6.9 earthquake rocked T&T and parts of Venezuela yesterday.

Four glass panes of the hospital shattered but remained intact while another pane on the sixth floor splintered.

While the children screamed, lockers from the hospital wards collapsed sending staff, patients and visitors into a panic. Dozens of people headed for the stairway but were trapped, Cort said.

“Eventually, a nurse told us to stand in the doorway until it passed. People were screaming and running. It was terrifying,” Cort said.

Patient Nicholas Balgobin, who was warded after surviving an accident, said he headed for the door when the tremors became worse.

“I was not taking any chances. People could not get out when they took the stairs because it was locked and the security was not around to help,” Balgobin claimed.

When Guardian Media arrived on the scene, dozens of security guards were gathered outside the security booth. Many began shouting at photographer Rishi Ragoonath when he began shooting photos.

Kieran Khan said he was collecting medication by the dispensary when the tremors began and while he ran out of the lower floor he saw people trying to get out using the staircase.

“I opened the door to get them out. It was really scary. I felt that people did not know what to do.”

At Sixth Street, Barataria, Dave Roopchand, who was on the third floor, ran out of his apartment in his boxers when the tremors started.

Glass items started to crash at One Woodbrook Place, a car was badly damaged when parts of the concrete wall began to collapse. The same happened outside Trinrico at Coffee Street, San Fernando, where part of the roof fell in front of the store. No one was injured.

Mya Courtney, a sales clerk at the Gulf City Shopping Complex, said people grabbed their children and were screaming as they ran out of the mall. “The whole mall start to shake up. I don’t think there was any major damage but the bulbs fell out of the sockets and were just hanging.”

Cedros councillor Shankar Teelucksingh said they were monitoring the sea level for any signs of a tsunami.

“I spoke with the fishermen and they are monitoring the situation right now. Everyone is traumatised right now. The phone lines were down so we are now calling around but so far we have gotten no reports of structural damage or injuries.”

Also contacted yesterday, National Building Code Committee chairman Shyankaran Lalla said T&T was fortunate the earthquake occurred 70 metres deep.

“Had it been shallower we would have attained a lot of damage in T&T. There is structural damage to buildings in Port-of-Spain. Part of Pizza Hut collapsed and fell on a vehicle,” Lalla said.

He called on the Government to immediately enact a National Building Code as a top priority, saying the next time an earthquake occurs, T&T may not escape unscathed.

Around 6.30 pm, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh reported that all health facilities in T&T were intact and the disaster plan was in full operation. However, when the Guardian Media contacted Medical Director Dr Albert Persaud he said preliminary checks at the old San Fernando General Hospital revealed everything was intact. However, he said there was some damage to the glass panes at the Teaching Hospital at Chancery Lane. Persaud said they were trying to find space for 12 patients in case the glass panes collapsed.


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