The National, Friday 14th September 2012
By JAMES APA GUMUNO and ELIAS LARI
RESPONSE from the Barrick fire protection unit in Porgera gold mine saved 30 detainees from being burnt alive early yesterday.
Police believe part of Paiam Police Station in Enga’s Porgera district was deliberately set on fire and the result could have been catastrophic had the fire unit been any later.
The station’s building housing its traffic, community policing and criminal investigation departments were burnt to ashes.
The detainees, locked up in the station’s brick cell block, no more than two metres away, were saved when Barrick’s fire protection unit responded within 20 minutes and prevented the fire from spreading across the connected buildings.
Police special operations commander in Porgera Insp Joe Maragil told The National from Paiam that the building that housed traffic, community policing and criminal investigation (CID) offices and everything inside it, including records and files, was completely destroyed. He said the 30 detainees were rescued by the fire protection unit with a water truck.
He said the rescue team arrived about 20 minutes after the alarm was raised but by then flames had engulfed the entire building.
Maragil said he believed it was a carefully planned attack as the fire seemed to have started between mid-night and 1am when shifts were changing and there was no policeman around.
None of the detainees escaped and all were safe, he reported.
Maragil said the arsonists broke through the side-wall of the police station.
He did not think it had anything to do with the recent troublesome strike at the mine, but was yet to find the motivation for the attack.
“It could be related to tribal conflicts between landowners living near the Paiam township, but this we are yet to find out,” he said.
Maragil said criminal investigation officers from Western Highlands would be flown to Paiam to help investigate the fire.
He appealed to the public for information.