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Point Fortin mayor Clyde Paul says disaster preparedness in T&T leaves much to be desired, after a dozen families in the borough were in turmoil due to Thursday’s bad weather. In five of Point Fortin’s seven communities, families spent yesterday morning repairing and cleaning their homes after roofs were blown off, trees came crashing down and rain blew into their homes.
By noon yesterday, the Point Fortin Borough Corporation were delivering food hampers, mattresses and tarpaulins to affected residents, who said they were yet to the see officials from the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM). T&TEC was restoring power to homes where lines were broken and firefighters had already helped remove uprooted trees.
Speaking at his office yesterday, Paul lamented that local government bodies were not equipped to deal with disasters. He said a lack of resources and training were evident whenever there was an emergency. “The local government authorities do not have the kind of resources, nor facilities, nor training to act on an emergency. That is a result of poor planning. Every country you go to where there was a disaster, you would see that the first people to respond was the army.
“The approach has always been wrong when it comes to disaster management in this country. We say disaster management, but this ought to be more of an emergency management issue. A disaster brings about an emergency and, therefore, we ought to act as an emergency operation.” T&T has not experienced hurricane conditions since 2004 when part of Hurricane Ivan’s tail struck Tobago, killing one person and leaving $4.9 million in damage. Despite little rainfall yesterday, it was a traumatic experience for many.
At the home of Samdaye Singh, her son Premnath Singh, who lives to the back, said that around 2.30 pm, he heard glass breaking at the house. As he looked outside, he saw half of the roof being torn out. “When I walked up the hill to check, I saw all the louvres at the back of the house blowing off.” Her grandson Jesse was home, he said, and had just sat down to watch TV. “My mom was at a friend's house two houses away. Jesse had to stand in a corner of the house where the roof hadn’t blown off until the rain passed,” Singh said.
A tarpaulin was placed over the roof, but the Singhs had severe damage to the walls of their home, furniture and appliances. Though the country is not fully into the rainy season, scores of people in south Trinidad have been left reeling from just two hours of rain and strong wind.
Singh said, “If we can get this weather now and the hurricane season hasn’t fully started yet, we have to look out for more drastic winds. We have to expect this because of climate change, but I don’t think we’re prepared as yet. Just recently a tree fell on the tank by me with another one hanging over. I called the ODPM hotline and they never came. I had to hire people to cut the trees. They should put proper systems in place.”