Just over 11 years ago, Port-of-Spain was rocked by a dustbin bomber. That person was dubbed “Mr Big” by then Prime Minister Patrick Manning, but he was never caught. Two other explosions followed in St James and Independence Square. Who ever did that has escaped punishment.
On Saturday night, in an area known as Chelsea in New York, a dumpster bomber emerged, injuring 29 persons. That is an area frequented by Trinidad and Tobago nationals. In fact, one Trinidadian said on Facebook that he was one of the persons fleeing after the explosion on Saturday night.
TRINIDAD DUSTBIN BOMBER
Let’s go back to July 11, 2005. That was four days after the worst terrorist attack in London since World War II, where 52 persons were killed.
An explosive device was left in a dustbin outside Maraj Jewellers on Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain. All of a sudden, it exploded, injuring 14 persons including Yvonne Mc Ivor, of Arima, who lost a leg.
Within 30 minutes of the explosion, there was a mass exodus from the city, thousands of people scurried on foot for every available form of transportation home.
According to eyewitnesses, a green dustbin in front of Maraj Jewelers on Frederick Street exploded at 2.03 pm, causing injury to everyone in the immediate vicinity.
The fatality list could have been greater if schools were not on vacation as Frederick Street is a regular liming spot on afternoons for many schoolchildren.
But the explosion sent shivers up the spines of many. Within minutes, every store on Frederick Street and environs were secured.
There was a mad rush by store employees and other persons to leave the city centre. Persons eating at Town Centre and Excellent City Centre Malls rushed out leaving their meals behind. Employees at the eateries packed up and ran and as one woman jokingly put it, “ah leave plenty food there, go and help yourself.” That brought a smile to several faces despite the seriousness of the situation.
One thing was certain. The security forces responded quickly. Gregory Aboud, president of the Downtown Owners Merchants Association (DOMA), was high in praise for the quick response of the security services. But he asked that nationals not be daunted by what happened. He asked them to return to work as normal the following day and show the culprits that they could not succeed in this country.
Within minutes, the area around Frederick Street was cordoned off. From Independence Square to the south, Abercromby Street to the west, Henry Street to the east, and Hart Street to the north, vehicular and pedestrian traffic were turned away.
The ambulance services arrived quickly on the scene and the paramedics dealt with the injured on the pavement and in the roadway. Within minutes, ambulances were hustling away from the bloody scene to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital carrying the wounded.
The top brass of the Police Service were present — Deputy Commissioner Glen Roach, acting Deputy Commissioner Oswyn Allard, Assistant Commissioners Nazimul Hosein, James Philbert and Clyde Reyes (all retired). the Regiment was present also and led by Lt Colonels Rodney Smart (now Chief of Defence Staff) and Ken Maharaj (retired Chief of Defence Staff).
Even the politicians could not stay away — Minister of National Security Martin Joseph, Housing Minister Dr Keith Rowley (now Prime Minister), Works Minister Colm Imbert, Tourism Minister Howard Chin Lee, and Port-of-Spain Mayor Murchison Brown.
Very soon, word spread that it was a dustbin that exploded and many walked away from the other dustbins on the main street in Port-of-Spain. Thirty minutes after the explosion, three dogs belonging to the Police Service and trained to hunt for bombs, arrived and immediately began to sniff for any further devices.
A newly acquired helicopter, manned by members of the Special Anti-Crime Unit, also swung into action and hovered over the bloody scene for a long time. Eventually the helicopter landed near the scene and blew away the evidence.
During the investigations, two United States Marines were seen on the scene to get an update from local officials about what happened in the city.
WHAT HAPPENED IN CHELSEA
A thunderous explosion rocked a Chelsea Street, New York, on Saturday night, injuring at least 29 people, blasting out windows and sending scores of panicked pedestrians running for their lives, cops and witnesses told the New York Daily News.
The ground-shaking detonation on W. 23rd St. between Sixth and Seventh Aves. was “an intentional act,” Mayor de Blasio said at the scene, adding that the investigation is in its early stages.
“There is no evidence at this point of a terror connection,” the mayor said of the incident, which took place at about 8:30 p.m.
A second device, a pressure cooker with wires and a cell phone attached to it, was found in a white garbage bag four blocks away on W. 27th St., sources said.
Twenty-four of the 29 victims were rushed to area hospitals with injuries that were not life-threatening, authorities said. One victim was in serious condition.
There were no arrests, according to police.
“It was red, orange in the middle. It was a circle of fire,” said one witness, who’s in her 50s and lives in Manhattan. “The whole block shook. The fire was up in the air. People were running for their lives.”
The blast sent a Dumpster and chunks of shrapnel hurtling across the street, video shows.
Ramon Lopez, after sprinting away from a blast that felt like the “earth was shaking,” doubled back to help a handful of cut-up victims.