NEWPORT BLAZE: Coping with the week from hell

1:36pm Friday 10th August 2007

By South Wales Argus Newsdesk

GWENT'S Chief Constable and a senior fire officer say they are proud of the way their staff have coped with a frantic week dealing with four major incidents.

Last Thursday, a lorry crashed into the central reservation of the M4, killing the driver and causing five miles of traffic tailbacks. Police, ambulance staff and the fire service were involved at the scene, and many police were drafted in to deal with huge traffic queues - some drivers being stuck in them for six hours.

Two murder investigations were launched over the weekend, each involving dozens of police and forensics officers. On Saturday, James Vincent Fortey, 44, died on Caerleon Road and on Sunday, the body of 25-year-old Wes Strawbridge was found in the Shaftesbury street area.

Then fire that caused havoc in Marlborough Road on Monday added to the list of large jobs our emergency services have had to deal with. Fourteen fire crews were joined by 80 police dealing with the evacuation, cordoning off the site, and redirecting traffic.

Gwent Police Chief Constable, Mike Tonge, was very pleased with the way officers have worked during the pressure period.

He said: "In the three and a half years that I've worked here, it is just unprecedented that we should have such a spell of large events.

"For such big incidents to come along so close together is really unusual.

"But as police officers, that is what we are trained to do.

"We get an average of 1500 switchboard calls a week so we are used to dealing with the unexpected.

"Policing is all about dealing with unexpected situations and expecting ordinary people to do the extraordinary and that is exactly what our officers have done over the last week.

"I'm always proud to see the efforts of the officers and to see them going the extra mile.

"Thankfully it is very unusual that this type of thing should happen in Gwent.

"We would like to reassure the public that these events are very rare and when they do occur, we have a very good track record to deal with it.

"Teamwork has also been very important over the last week," he added.

"A lot of our work has been down to good partnership with the council and emergency services."

And South Wales Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Andy Marles agreed.

He said:"All of the services worked well and pulled together.

"Newport has had some particularly difficult incidents over the last week and the crews have dealt with them really well.

"I cannot fault the work that our guys did on the Marlborough Road fire.

"We plan and practise for these types of things and it worked well.

"But while we were able to save some the buildings, we would like to express our sympathy to those who have lost property and also to those who work in the factory and may have lost their jobs."

Chief Constable Mike Tonge also expressed his sympathy for those affected by the recent incidents.

He said: "While we have had some success in dealing with the recent incidents, we would like to support those people who are experiencing difficult times."


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