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Villagers refuse to leave homes
Despite the trauma of seeing their neighbours’ houses swallowed by the sea due to ongoing coastal erosion, heartbroken Bamboo Village, Cedros residents yesterday refused to leave their properties against the advice of security personnel on hand to help them.
When the T&T Guardian visited the community, the shells of two houses owned by David Samuel and Leroy Joseph stood on the brink of a 1,000 feet cliff overlooking Columbus Bay, while three others belonging to Latiff Mohammed, Korisha Hosein and Amos Joseph remained occupied.
The ruins of a sixth house owned by Charmion Gunness stood at the bottom of the precipice after the worsening landslide swallowed it up on Monday.
With beams in the residents’ concrete houses splintering from the pressure and cracks appearing on the road, senior fire substation officer Keith Siberan pleaded with them to abandon their possessions and clear off from the site, saying “You have to leave. This is not a tourist site. This is a hazard zone and we are asking you to work with the police, fire officers and Disaster Management Unit to ensure everyone’s well-being.”
Siberan eventually imposed a 300-foot restriction on the area, adding, “We understand some people are not willing to leave their homes, but we have to protect you so we are going to increase the restriction as we see fit because the land is gradually being cut away from the back and for some of these structures, collapse is imminent.”
Around midday, National Security Minister Edmund Dillon, Office of Disaster Preparedness head Neville Wint and Local Government Minister Kazim Hosein visited and promised to assist with immediate evacuation. However, residents said it was heartbreaking to leave everything they owned behind.
Zaimoon Mohammed was in tears.
“This is everything I have,” she whispered before being comforted by Hosein.
While a shower of rain poured, causing greater risks to properties, Samuel, 65 and his son Bradley Neemai hurriedly tried to stack their valuables at the side of a neighbour’s house.
The residents had to break through the windows to gain entry, however, as the front of the house had crumbled into the precipice. Two parrots - Big boy and Little Boy -, as well as a macaw slid into the hole along with 400 metres of the road and a cage filled with ducks. All of the animals were rescued and some villagers contemplated entering the sink-hole to retrieve laptop computers, jewellery and other valuables, but they were prevented by security officers.
Wint said, “At this point we are seeing visible signs of movement of the soil. The cause is yet to be determined but we are seeing the effect.”
He praised the response of the Fire Service, saying, “The more weight we put on the edge can cause the foundation to erode from underneath, so the action taken thus far is to preserve life and prevent any casualties of people who are curious to see. We must allow the corporation to relocate the families and those who are not directly impacted will have to evacuate their premises out of an abundance of caution.”
Siparia Regional Corporation chairman Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh called for a technical study to be done on the coastline to determine the extent of the damage, while Minister Hosein said the Coastal Protection Unit had been alerted and all necessary assistance will be given to the affected families.
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