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Updated: Suspected arson leaves 16 homeless

The badly damaged Schwartz home in the foreground. The other two houses in the background have been destroyed.

At least 16 persons were Saturday afternoon rendered homeless after fire, believed to be the work of arsonists, destroyed two old wooden houses and severely damaged a third on Quamina Street, Georgetown.

Occupants, who were at home at the time, recalled hearing a loud explosion before seeing flames and thick smoke billowing from the scene near the Guyana Revenue Authority’s (GRA) parking lot at the corner of Camp and Quamina Streets.

Vanessa Collymore-Fortune, who lived in the house where the fire started, told reporters that she was in the kitchen cutting meat when she heard her nephew and his three friends calling for her son to go downstairs. “Then I see the whole place in fire. All I could have done was pick up this bag and I come outside,” she said.

She said her brother apparently has a formal agreement with a Water Street businessman whose representatives went there during December 2012 that he owned the lot. The woman hired a lawyer to have the matter resolved. The woman said she still has the documents for the house and land. “I know my God is big and I will be standing firm because is my own and I am not giving it up. They have to kill me,” said Collymore-Fortune.

Among the homeless is Jacqueline Soares who said she was sitting down viewing television when she heard a female neighbour from the next yard hollering and saw the fire blazing. Schwartz quickly exited her home through the backdoor.

The 69-year old woman–who lived with her son, daughter-in-law and cousin—said up to two months ago a named city businessman tried demanding her property because he had purchased the site from the now deceased Ricardo Rodrigues. “When I showed him my transport then he realised he had no grounds,” he said. The woman said she lived there for 37 years.

A woman, who managed to save only a small plastic container with her rings and a cellular phone, said she fled the middle house shortly after hearing an explosion and see fire. “I ain’t know how the fire start but all I know I hear something go ‘pow’ and I see people running and I see a girl running with her baby. I thought was a fight then I see smoke and I run out,” said 63-year Margo Elias.

Part of the GRA parking lot was home to a dwelling and motorcycle mechanic shop. That house and the house and shop at the corner were burnt down several years ago by arsonists.