JIS News

Children’s Advocate, Mary Clarke is expressing grief and regret over the death of five girls in a fire, at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre in Alexandra, St. Ann last night.
“It is a tragedy. It is a sad day for all Jamaica, that five children should have died in a fire this way. The staff and the girls are very sad, but it is encouraging to know the quick action that the Department of Correctional Services took, to get persons to counsel them. Psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors are here with the girls,” Mrs. Clarke told JIS News.
Thirteen other girls were injured and taken to the St. Ann’s Bay Hospital, three of whom have since been transferred to the Kingston Public Hospital because of the severity of their burns.
Mrs. Clarke said her Office would be following the situation, and subsequent developments, closely. “We will watch the proceedings. For us it is a long process. We have to find out exactly what happened, then we have to wait on the police and the fire report. Our interest is always, down the line, to see if there is need for a civil suit.on behalf of the girls…we are here gathering our facts,” she said.
Meanwhile, Member of Parliament for South West St. Ann, Ernest Smith, who is also at the home offering support, expressed his sympathies. “One of the things I’m very happy about is that more of the children did not die. It’s a very traumatic situation, but I’m very happy about the way in which the Prime Minister and the Commissioner of Corrections have dealt with it, along with the Commissioner of Police and the Minister of National Security. The girls who have survived, started receiving counselling from last night, and even as I speak, there is a vehicle on the way to remove them from this very traumatic environment. The Correctional Services have really acted with tremendous dispatch and concern. It is absolutely devastating,” he stated.
At the time of the fire, some 61 girls were housed at the home. Meanwhile, a statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister, says Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding has given instructions to hastily relocate the Armadale girls to the Stony Hill HEART Academy. Buses are now being sent to the Centre, to transport them to their new location.
Mr. Golding said a Commission of Enquiry will be ordered to determine exactly what occurred, and that retired Court of Appeal President, Paul Harrison has agreed to be the sole Commissioner. The Commission is to begin working once the relevant instruments have been signed by the Governor-General.
Meanwhile, security at the centre has been beefed up and additional correctional officers, and police personnel, have been stationed there. The Government will also be taking care of the funeral expenses.
The Prime Minister flew down to the Armadale centre this morning for a first hand view of the situation. He said efforts are being made to identify additional locations where the girls can be housed until repairs have been completed. Two possible locations have been inspected and the Commissioner of Corrections is working with the relevant agencies to see how quickly arrangements can be finalised, the release said. Mr. Golding was accompanied by head of the Child Development Agency, Allison Anderson.