Smoke affecting our health, says residents

By Adel Fruean and Ivamere Nataro ,

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From tafaigata to malie-uta: Families at Malie-uta village badly affected by the fumes from the Tafaigata fire.

From tafaigata to malie-uta: Families at Malie-uta village badly affected by the fumes from the Tafaigata fire. (Photo: Iain McGregor)

Residents living within the vicinity of Tafaigata have expressed concern at thick smoke emanating from the Tafaigata landfill, saying it could affect their health.

The area has been smoggy in the last two days, after a fire was lit on Tuesday afternoon and spread through the area where township residents dump their rubbish. 

Ielua Ielua of Malie-uta told the Samoa Observer this is not the first time they have been victims of toxic fumes. They live close to the landfill and when the Samoa Observer visited the area yesterday, children and family members were seen washing their clothes surrounded by thick smoke. 

“Our greatest concern is our children’s health because they are inhaling gas from burnt toxic waste. We have infants who are exposed to these fumes yet we do not have the power to stop that fire,” he added.

The fire started around 2 pm on Tuesday afternoon with Ielua indicating that the National Fire Service is yet to respond. 

“The saddest part is that we have been exposed from yesterday afternoon up until this morning. We are still being exposed to smoke. There was no sign of any fire trucks.”

The father-of-three decried the lack of response from the authorities and said the whole community is affected. 

Smoke drifts through houses and land on the edge of the landfill. Photo/Iain McGregor
Smoke drifts through houses and land on the edge of the landfill. Photo/Iain McGregor
Fire outbreak at Tafaigata Landfill from Tuesday afternoon still burning yesterday morning. Photo/Iain McGregor
Fire outbreak at Tafaigata Landfill from Tuesday afternoon still burning yesterday morning. Photo/Iain McGregor

Nuu resident, Christopher Warren, told this newspaper that the smoke affected them around 7 pm on Tuesday and it covered the whole area. 

“The fumes came with a very bad smell of burnt plastics and tires, it had a strong scent. It affected us all throughout the night. Everything was just covered in smokes. We could not breathe properly. We even used cloths to cover our noses and breathe through it. I was more concerned about my children, especially their health,” he added.

He said he called the National Fire Service and was advised that it was a matter for the Disaster Management Office and also the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E.).

 “But in my opinion, the fire services can reach the affected area if big trucks are used to reach it and I am aware that the road is quite bad,” he added.  

Samoa Fire and Emergency Services Authority Assistant C.E.O. Tanuvasa Petono Mauga said they have made an agreement with M.N.R.E. to clear the burning area with their machineries. “When we received the call yesterday (Tuesday) because of the fire at the landfill, our team went to see the area and we immediately referred it to the M.N.R.E. because they are able to handle the matter with their heavy machineries,” Tanuvasa said in a telephone interview.

M.N.R.E. Acting Chief Executive Officer, Moafanua Tolusina Pouli said the Ministry will clear the rubbish in the landfill and added that the previous contractor left with their machineries at the end of their contract. 

“We are working on trying to get a new contractor to work on clearing the rubbish, but at the moment I think the fire has been contained,” he added.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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