Tropical Storm Bret was not unanticipated, it did not strike unexpectedly like a thunderbolt out of the blue.
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Debe family in need of a home
For 35 years, the Birbals have been living on lands located between Chester Trace and Cuchawan Trace in Debe, south Trinidad. The family, headed by brothers Ramdial and Krishna Birbal, have been occupying two shacks with permission from the original owner of the land, Taran Persad. They live in extreme poverty. There is no running water or electricity and the brothers support their familes by growing crops.
Persad died recently after travelling abroad for a surgery. Yesterday, a bulldozer began clearing away their produce and a man claiming to be the new owner told them that he was going to clear the land. “My greatest fear is that if this man breaks down my house, I have nowhere to go,” said Ramdial. “I have my children and my wife here. Where will I go? I just need a little place to take them. I worry about where I will take my children. What will I do?”
Krishna’s daughter, Shoba, said she had to stand in the path of the bulldozer to prevent their homes from being demolished. She said although the man did not produce any documents of ownership, he said he would return with a court order to get their off. Ramdial and Krishna are both unemployed due to chronic medical conditions. They depend on government grants of $1300 and $850 a month to sustain their families.
Ramdial and his wife Esther have five children who attend secondary and primary schools in San Fernando, Penal and Debe, while Krishna and his wife Surijdaye Singh have four children and five grandchildren. “I have been living here 20 years and these people came and said they had a court order to break down our houses. This morning they came with an excavator and said they were going to push down everything,” Krishna said.
The Birbals, who live in the constituency represented by Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, said they have been getting a “run around” from the MP’s office. “One day I went by Moonilal for a little help and Moonilal didn’t even offer anything. When I went there he said he can’t help us with anything. They told us to come back tomorrow.”
“We are willing to move, but when we move, where will we go? We don’t have anywhere to go. Right now we need a place to go and if anybody can help us out to get a place, anywhere, we will break down our house and go. We just need a little help please,” Ramdial said. Krishna said money is scarce and they will not be able to pay much in rent: “We can try to pay if it is about $300 to $500 per month. The little money from the public assistance we get, is not enough to buy food.”
The family is appealing for help.