Last update: 12-Dec-2013 8:49 pm
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Floods take heavy toll on Diego Martin
Tears running down her face, clad in a large T-shirt and capris, feet bare and covered in mud, Mohani Singh, who has lived in Diego Martin for the past 13 years, watched as water poured out of her house. The water, which had taken two hours to pool in her home, flowed sluggishly out of a hole a neighbour had hammered through the living-room wall of her two-bedroom house.
Like many homes off St Lucien Road in Diego Martin, Singh’s home was ravaged by floodwaters and debris after two hours of rain caused the Diego Martin River to burst its banks. While the ODPM had issued a release saying the road to Macqueripe in Chaguaramas was impassable, Glencoe and Carenage remained flood-free.
The rainfall, accompanied by thunder so loud it made houses vibrate, and day-bright flashes of lightning, began shortly after 11 pm in western Trinidad and continued until shortly after 3 am. In the yards of residents whose homes bordered the highway, water settled about four feet high, partially covering cars. Homeowners climbed onto ledges and walls to escape the water in their homes.
Singh said: “In 2006 my place flood out and nobody ever helped me fix it...I don’t want to live here again.” She is the neighbour of Johan Lewis, who returned to his Jean Avenue home at around 1 am yesterday to meet his television set, couch, bed and clothing floating in water that reached halfway up his five-foot-nine-inch frame. The tidemark left by the receding water showed that at one point it reached his waist.
The rain left behind a highway filled with dirty river water, debris and in some places thick layers of mud. Further up the street, Anne Salandy swept water from the home she shares with four family members, including a three-month-old grandson.
In communities around Diego Martin, people experienced similar situations as water rushed through streets, pushing against walls until they collapsed. The situation was not very different from 13 months ago when power lines and cables were pulled down, roads were badly damaged and one man died, swept away by a landslide.
As early as midnight, Diego Martin Central MP Amery Browne was touring the area, making calls to fast-track relief efforts. A group of fire officers rescued a family trapped in their home on Jean Avenue.
By shortly after 3 am, perhaps half an hour after the rainfall lessened, Justice Minister Emmanuel George, who lives in Diego Martin, and regional corporation chairman Anthony Sammy were checking in with teams dispatched by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management at affected areas near Simon Trace in Bagatelle. George and Sammy visited 11 affected areas yesterday.
In an interview, Sammy said clean-up efforts would take approximately two days. He said he had asked for help for people who had lost food and furniture. “We have made contact with the Ministry of Social Development and they will send their people and we are trying to get in contact with Self Help as well.” Five people had been sent to a temporary disaster shelter at the Diamond Vale Community Centre.
Asked why, a year after Diego Martin was devastated by floods in 2012, people seemed to be facing the same issues, Sammy said it was a result of climate change. “Some people may say it’s excuses and so on, but we could have the best drains in the world and so on, but when you have climate change that is taking place all over the world, and you have that kind of downpour that we experienced this morning, you are going to have a measure of flooding.”
Sammy said up to two months ago 95 per cent of underground drains under the corporation’s purview was cleaned and these drains were cleaned every three and a half months.
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