8 families displaced by meth explosion

Jonathan Alexander (Source: Waveland Police Dept.)
Jonathan Alexander (Source: Waveland Police Dept.)
Mary Marie Tarver (Source: Waveland Police Dept.)
Mary Marie Tarver (Source: Waveland Police Dept.)

By Al Showers - bio | email

WAVELAND, MS (WLOX) - "The ammonia smell was so strong it probably could have killed you just then," Waveland resident Jerry Prince said.

Prince lives in the apartment directly behind the unit where police say Jonathan Alexander experimented with making crystal meth.

"They could have blew the whole apartment complex up, put my wife and my kids in danger too, along with the rest of the people that live here," Prince said.

Hazmat crews cleaned up the mini meth lab late Thursday night, but the fumes and residue from the chemicals make returning to the contaminated units impossible right now.

"I can't be in the comfort of my own home. Then they tell us we'll probably lose everything we own. That's just like another Katrina, really," Prince said. "Contamination, because the clothes are contaminated, we have to throw all of our cloths away. Furniture, everything, now we've got to start over from scratch."

"I'm angry, I'm very angry," Waveland resident Paul Sullivan. "At least a storm, you get a warning. This, I didn't even get a warning. That's why I'm here. I'm trying to get some help."

The American Red Cross has opened a shelter for people put out of their homes at Lagniappe Presbyterian Church in Bay St. Louis.

"Any of them that are in need can come here, and they can get a place to stay for as long as they need to," said Raemona Seemann with the American Red Cross. "We're also going to be providing meals, an allowance for clothes. We also have a doctor on staff who will be doing some counseling, and a nurse who will be doing medical assistance."

Several tenants, as well as three police officers, needed medical treatment Thursday night after coming in contact with the chemical vapors.

"One of the officers evidently got a deep breath of the ammonia, [from] the smoke that was coming out of there," Waveland Police Chief Jimmy Varnell said. "[He] had some lung problems at first. The officers are fine. They were treated and released."

Varnell said he's thankful the situation wasn't any worse. Jerry Price feels the same way.

"It could have blew the whole building up," Prince said.

Exactly when the tenants will be able to return home is not clear at this time. Crews will have to decontaminate the entire complex before anyone can go home.

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