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False alarm at Summit site

More than 700 people were safely evacuated from Tower C at theInternational Financial Complex (IFC) yesterday, Acting Assistant ChiefFire Officer Raymond Cooseelal said yesterday.

Cooseelal said he was informed that the generators at Tower C were beingtested just before the building was evacuated.

"T&TEC switched the supply from normal power to auxiliary power...thealarm on the 11th floor went off. It was considered an emergency," saidCooseelal, the senior fire officer at the scene yesterday.

He said auxiliary and professional fire fighters assigned to the Summitsecretariat responded immediately,

However, it took more than 35 minutes before fire appliances from FireService headquarters, which is a short drive away from the IFC, arrived atTower C.

The fire appliances arrived around 5.37 pm. People had first beenevacuated to the area right in front of Tower C at around 4.55 pm and werestanding there for more than half an hour when the fire appliances arrived.

Police officers already posted at the IFC for the Summit had beenassisting with the evacuation and ensured that everyone in the building wasoutside.

It was only when the fire appliances arrived at 5.35 pm, that thepeople standing outside Tower C were instructed by fire officers to walkover to the car park across on the other side of the IFC on Dock Road.

Asked about this, Cooseelal said the fire appliances were dispatched assoon as Fire Service Headquarters received the trouble call at 5.35 p.m.

Once they arrived, he said the fire fighters joined their colleagues whowere already in Tower C and began checking each of the building's 26 floorsbefore declaring the building safe to re-enter at 6.05 p.m.

Speaking to reporters yesterday after the evacuation took place,Assistant Superintendent of Police , Joanne James, said that she "wasinstructed to evacuate the building" and ensured the instructions werefollowed.

James said she was satisfied with the police response.

At around 6.07 p.m. a contingent of about 30 heavily armed policeofficers dressed in tactical gear arrived at the IFC's entrance and stoodready to be deployed.

An official from the Summit Secretariat, however, informed them thatthey were not needed since "it was only a fire alarm."

Less than a minute later, the officers turned around and left thecomplex.

One reporter from the Voice of America radio station, Gustavo Win, hadexpressed his concerns as to when he and his colleagues would be allowedback into Tower C since he had a live radio broadcast to do after 7 p.m.