Toddler perishes in fire

By Marion Ali, Assistant Editor

A 21-month-old baby boy burnt to death in a fire on Sunday night in Belize City.

The tragedy unfolded shortly after 9:00 when a wooden house at #32 Santa Barbara Street caught on fire, burning the toddler, Tyreik Roberts, who was locked inside while his mother was at the store.

Shaneeka Roberts, 20, an unemployed single mother of two boys, told the media that she had just locked the house and headed down the street to the store with her older son, age 5, leaving behind her sleeping toddler. She said she had gone for about 20 minutes, when upon her return, she learned from a neighbour that her house was on fire.

Tyreik’s grandmother, Thelma McKoy told reporters that a gas tank that was connected to the house exploded, setting the house quickly on fire. The neighbours who saw the blaze and heard the baby screaming inside and tried to pry open the door to get him out, but the lock did not budge. By the time Roberts ran home and opened the door, the fire had already consumed the entire house. She collapsed from smoke inhalation, trying to save her baby, and had to be carried out.

Fire fighters arrived and had to connect to a water source before fighting the blaze, witnesses say, and during that time, the blaze spread to another wooden house and a two-storey, concrete downstairs with a wooden upper flat. All the houses were gutted, and their contents destroyed, leaving 14 people homeless and in need of assistance. Their losses are still being tallied.

Roberts told fire investigators that the house had electricity supply, but that she did not leave anything on.

The fire victims are being sheltered inside some classrooms at St. Martin de Porres school. They have received mattresses, blankets, bedding, water, hygiene kits, and food supplies, from the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO), through the Belize City Council. Most of the victims have found relatives and friends to stay with, while the others are appealing for help to rebuild their lives. Pickstock Area Representative, Wilfred Elrington, is assisting the fire victim.

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