Sunday, 15 November 2015

Fire in refugee camp 'The Jungle'

 So, where to start. On the night of Friday 13th November 2015, we were going to bed in Calais town when we received a phone call telling us there was a huge fire in 'The Jungle' and that we needed to go back and help unknown number of casualties. When we got there we couldn't get to the affected area of the camp as the police were blocking access but we could see a lot of thick smoke and there were many people waiting on the road as the fire service arrived. It was very windy which luckily was blowing the smoke away from the rest of the camp; it was probably a factor in the spread of the fire, over, 2500 sq m which is what the press is reporting. The fire service struggled to contain the fire but eventually it was put out using Police water cannons.

Volunteers reacted calmly and in a measured way. We went inside the camp and opened up our vaccination clinic and prepared to receive casualties with injuries, burns and smoke inhalation. Vans were packed at the warehouse with sleeping bags and blankets and we stored them in the dome, Good Chance Calais, next door to us. The effected Sudanese residents were patient and graceful as they queued for sleeping bags and we counted out who had lost their homes. The dome became a safe, warm space to sleep as did the Woman's Centre and Ashram Kitchen, all community hubs inside The Jungle. We checked all three places for injuries but fortunately only very minor. Unknown at this point how many people were treated by the Ambulance Service or if anyone is missing.

This came after a challenging but successful day despite many obstacles. We have now vaccinated over 100 people thanks to three volunteer paramedics who came out and our space is becoming a popular place to hang out, draw, write and play music.

Our thoughts are with Parisians at the moment after the terrible and shocking terrorist attacks. We know this will affect us in The Jungle as the story unfolds but we are unsure how.

We cannot stop to mourn for Paris as we have to open up our clinic and find tents and shelters for the poor residents who have lost their homes. I am confident we will find solutions today, I am so proud of the way all the volunteers responded last night. There aren't any major charities or NGO's here, the volunteers are all unpaid and here out of goodwill but we quickly reacted to events like professionals despite many not having experiences in this. The residents of the camp remained a pleasure to work with, calm and respect ensued.