Saturday, December 27, 2008

Fire killed 7 Liberian in South West Philadelphia

(Philadelphia, PA) A fire described as “tragic and terrible” on Friday night (December 27, 2008) killed 7 Liberians and left several others wounded with conditions ranging from critical to serious. According to Harris Murphy ‘who escaped from the fire in the basement of the town home, all of the victims were very confuse and terrified when they found out that the fire had blocked their only exit to the town home basement. When asked how he escaped, Mr. Murphy said he used his 13 years fire escape training strategy which his colleagues refused to use. Murphy said after he realized that the fire was fully blazing to the only and main exit to the basement, he (Murphy) determined that their only option was to apply the technique he applied. Mr. Murphy said he asked everyone to go in the bathroom and drop in the bathtub for few seconds. He said every one in the basement ran in the bathroom but refused to get out of the bathroom. Mr. Murphy said he dropped in the bathtub and had his clothes wet to help delay fire getting to his skin while elbowing his way out. As Mr. Murphy narrated his story, crying voices of sympathizers, family, & friends increased from the crow surrounding him. Most parts of Harris Murphy’s head and hands were bandaged as he narrated the horrifying moment he survived. He said while at the hospital, several local and international journalists talked to him from his hospital bed. Most of the journalists that came from the accident scene could not believe that someone escape from the basement of the town home. Murphy said he was later asked to help identify some of the burned bodies in the hospital. He said of the seven bodies, he could only identify his closest friend “Henry Gbakoloi Ward”, whom many considered a brother to Harris Murphy. According to Mr. Murphy, the fire started in the basement of the town home where a mini restaurant was operated by a Liberian lady by the name of Chris Teah. The building was a three story apartment building occupied by renters from Liberia. According to the eyewitness who narrowly escaped death, the fire came from a kerosene heater that was used to provide heat for the basement’s mini restaurant. He said a strange blast came from the heater which started the fire. After the fire started forming blaze, it reached to a gallon that had kerosene in it. The restaurant owner, “Chris Teah” took the kerosene gallon and decided to run upstairs with it. In the process, kerosene spilled on the floor of the basement of the town home. The town home basement according to Philadelphia fire commissioner Lloyd Ayers did not appear to be equipped with smoke detectors. The commissioner said they did not found any smoke alarms at all, which they are very sadden by.
The owner of the Basement “Chris Teah” is among few of the survivals of the tragic accident. According to eyewitness Harris Murphy, Chris Teah needs a serious psychological evaluation after leaving the hospital. He said three of the children that died in the fire were Teah’s grand children and from what I (Harris Murphy) witnessed Teah display at the hospital last night, she will definitely need serious counseling.
According to CNN, Six of the victims- three adults, a teen and two children were found in the town home’s basement huddled together. A 2 year old boy who was pulled from the burning house by Philadelphia firefighters was later pronounced dead at the Philadelphia children hospital pushing the total number of death to 7.
Early clues suggest a kerosene heater may have started the blaze. The Philadelphia fire marshal has not officially determined the cause of the fire.
During my one hour visit to the tragic scenes, I briefly spoke to some members of the Liberian Community association in Philadelphia. One of the officials who was only identify as Jacobs, informed me about an urgent meeting scheduled for Sunday December 28, 2008 at a church few yard away from the accident scene on 65th street and elmwood avenue in Southwest Philadelphia. When Jacobs was asked about the planned role of the Liberian community association in Philadelphia, he said you are invited to the meeting tomorrow.

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