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Nigel Roopnarine begins to remove debris from his bedroom, after his home was completely gutted by fire at San Francique Road, San Francique, Penal, yesterday.

Already struggling for income due to Stay-at-Home measures, the Roopnarine family suffered another blow when a fire destroyed their home yesterday.

It was around 2 am when Nigel Roopnarine woke up to his wife Reena and their 12-year-old daughter Kassidy’s screams and saw the roof above their heads ablaze. With the fire spreading quickly, Roopnarine rushed his family out of the house along San Francique Road, Penal.

He was only able to save his taxi and an excursion bus that helped with extra income.

In less than 30 minutes, the fire reduced the three-bedroom home, they lived in for the past nine years, to rubble. The burnt electrical panel that hung in a spare bedroom may have caused the fire.

“My daughter was awake and she heard the crackling sound, thinking it was outside. She woke up my wife saying, ‘Mommy, there is noise outside. Look a fire!’ When they came out of the bedroom, they saw the front room on fire. They screamed out and that is when I woke up. We just opened the back door and ran out.”

No one was injured and Nigel was thankful that Kassidy slept in their room for the past week while he renovated her room.

Like many people, Roopnarine has been affected badly by the economic fallout from the COVID-19 restriction measures.

According to the Public Health (2019 Novel Coronavirus) Regulations, 2020, Section 2(1), “a person who provides public transport in a motor vehicle shall not carry in the motor vehicle, more than half the number of passengers which the motor vehicle is licensed to carry.”

This means that Roopnarine can only carry two passengers in his five-seat car along the Penal to Siparia route he operates. And with most outdoor activities banned, there is no demand for his bus service.

He wants to rebuild his home but his resources are limited.

“Right now I plan to see what assistance I can get to rebuild. It’s a total rebuilding I would have to do. I have to demolish and start from scratch because the walls are damaged.”

He said the fire left Kassidy traumatised, but they are staying with supportive relatives for a while.

The Penal/Debe Regional Corporation provided mattresses, bedsheets, water and food hamper.

Penal councillor Shanti Boodram said the fire was a tragedy, especially as it occurred while the Government’s message was to “Stay Home, Stay Safe” during the pandemic.

“Everything has been destroyed and it is really sad,” Boodram said.

Boodram added, “We are sending in all the information to the Ministry of Social Development to see how they can assess this family to bring some relief as fast as they can. They need all the help as everything has been destroyed in their home. They have to rebuild from scratch and it is not easy at this time.”