The National – Tuesday, June 14, 2011
By ZACHERY PER
THE only grandstand at the National Sports Institute in Goroka, Eastern Highlands, was razed to ashes at midnight last Wednesday.
Training bags belonging to the Bintangor Lahanis rugby league team, hurdles donated by the Japanese government, high jump mattresses and other sports equipment were lost in the fire.
The blaze jumped to a nearby round-house dormitory about 5m away where the Solomon Islands students studying at the University of Goroka were living.
The students dashed out of the dormitory with their belongings at around 12.30am after being alerted about the fire.
Institute director Edris Kumbruwah and his staff were lost for words and could not believe what had happened to the grandstand that was built in the 1960s.
The fire occurred only four days after another blaze gutted a science laboratory building at Goroka Secondary School, less than 500m away from stadium.
People in Goroka are now worried about other buildings there and are taking protective measures for their properties.
Night Owl Security Services managing director Winchlee Oibotee, who was instrumental in arranging for fire services trucks to fight the blaze, expressed anger at the inefficiency of private security guards deployed to protect the institute’s facilities.
He said it took more than 30 minutes to open up the institute’s gates for the fire trucks to enter the ground.
Oibotee, whose personnel guard other establishments near the institute, alerted him via two-way radio and he responded quickly by calling in the fire service.
But one of the fire trucks had only a half tank of water while the other suffered a water pump malfunction and could not spray any water on the blazing grandstand.
To make matters worse the Goroka town authority turns off the water supply in town at nights.
“I arranged for another fire truck belonging to the Civil Aviation Authority but the driver went off to sleep.
“As a concerned Eastern Highlander, I call on Governor Malcolm Kela-Smith, Goroka MP Thompson Harokaqveh and other MPs from the province to chip in to help rebuild the grandstand and science lab at the secondary school,” Oibotee said.
He said the grandstand was standing there when he was playing rugby league as a young man in 1972.
“It is sad to see it going down as it was a historical infrastructure,” he said.
The Bintangor Lahanis host the Gulf Isapeas in round six of the Digicel Cup there on Sunday.