Yesterday’s catastrophic explosion at the Cul-de-Sac quarry has shaken Saint Lucia to the core. It also sent me back in time to another explosion which also rocked Saint Lucia.
During the Christmas season of 1972, M&C on Bridge Street in Castries (currently Blue Coral) was the place to do all your shopping. A favourite of the kids at that time was the Toy Shop which was located on the top floor of the building at the corner of Bridge and Micoud streets.
On sale were toys of all kinds, and fireworks – match bombs, starlights, spinning wheels, and all many more. Also in the fireworks boxes was one called frogs. They were a wound up length of fireworks explosives which looked like an accordion, which when lit jumped along the ground like a frog as it exploded.
According to accounts from the Toy Shop at that time some person who had purchased a ‘frog’ lit the fuse and threw it into the shop to scare customers. As the frog jumped around the floor it either jumped into, or was thrown into a box of fireworks, and everything was ole mas after that.
The ceiling material is reported to have melted in the intense heat causing it to drip down on persons already trapped by the smoke, flames, and explosives. Although no customers were killed, many were severely burned as the melting ceiling rained down on them. The building was entirely gutted by the flames.
Being a young boy living at Lastic Hill I remember the shouts of “Fire! Fire!” as residents heard of the fire downtown. We ran to the corner near the Marian Home, from where the plumes of black smoke could be seen billowing into the Castries sky.
Many may not know, but from that day fireworks were banned in Saint Lucia. There has since been a lifting of those regulations only to authorized individuals and companies for properly supervised display events.
Will this incident now cause more stringent measures for explosives to be implemented in Saint Lucia, just as it was for fireworks back in 1972?