Friday, 3 June 2011

Opposition calls for 'full independent investigation' by an external agency

The Opposition considers that while it is important that lessons are learnt from the fire at the Port earlier this week there must also be a full investigation carried out by an external agency into its causes and the consequences that flow from it.

In a statement, Shadow port minister Dr Joseph Garcia says that the emergency services did a very good job in handling the incident. "However, there are a number of questions which have not been answered and which need to be looked into in order to assess not only why it happened and how it was dealt with but whether it should have happened in the first place. The policies of the Government in relation to the Port and the resources and equipment made available to it and to the emergency services should also be assessed."


The GSLP/Liberal statement adds: The obvious point in terms of resources is the lack of heavy duty fire-fighting capacity from the sea through a specialist vessel. There was a time when Gibraltar would lend assistance to nearby towns in Spain when there were incidents of this nature. The situation now is the reverse and the causes for this need to be examined in some detail. There have been a number of serious maritime/port accidents in our territorial waters in the past and it has taken too long to enforce the recommendations made by the experts who examined the incidents reported on them.

"In addition to this," the statement adds,"there have now been comments made by experts in the field of emergency preparedness and response coordination which have been critical of the emergency management plan. There have also been suggestions made that the City Fire Brigade had very limited resources in order to be able to handle this kind of incident. Experts have said that the Fire Brigade does not have large volume pumping capacity, portable remotely controlled ground water/foam monitors or the ability to use aerial ladders as water towers to mount a substantial foam attack on the top of the tank.


The Opposition goes on to say that the impression has been given that the kind of foam which was used to tackle the fire was not widely stocked in Gibraltar and it has been confirmed that this had to be rushed through the frontier after the fire had already broken out. This alone is clearly not acceptable from a safety point of view and the lack of stock of this foam does raise serious questions. Indeed, people are rightly wondering what is the point of all these committees and all these plans if then something as basic as foam is then found to be missing from the equation.

Shadow Minister with responsibility for the Port Dr Garcia commented: “Our first thoughts are with the worker who was seriously injured in these horrific events and with his family. In the aftermath of this incident, there are many serious questions which need an answer. The emergency services, the fire brigade, the police and the port staff made us all proud on the day. However, it is obvious that issues of resources need to be examined and questions of Government policy need to be assessed. This is best done through an external totally independent inquiry. Any possible under-resourcing of the emergency services has the potential to put at risk their own lives and those of the community as a whole.”

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