Operations at San Fernando City Corporation's Carib Street Works Department got off to a late start yesterday, after a sink hole appeared in the parking lot, causing the evacuation of workers.
The hole, which measured more than 60 feet in depth, was observed on Saturday when a truck got stuck in the sinking asphalt.
General secretary of the Contractors and General Workers Trade Union Ermine De Bique-Meade said the hole is believed to be part of an underground water system which dates back to 1898.
The infrastructure is believed to have been used by the city to provide access to clean drinking water and electricity.
Expressing concern for the safety of workers, De Bique-Meade said there were two other sinkholes on the site, which have been capped. She also expressed concerns that the new works building, which is currently under construction, could also be in danger of collapse.
"We want engineers and geologists to come here and conduct proper tests before any further work is done in that building," De Bique-Meade said.
She said that the drivers who were affected by the sinkhole were transferred to the Skinner Park facility.
"Contractors who came to work on these two sections on Saturday were alarmed because while they were removing the Hiab (truck) the vehicle started to sink. They removed the truck and put a barrel but it was also sinking. They excavated around the area and in the excavation we realized that the hole was filled with water," De Bique-Meade said.
A sewerage truck was used to pump the water out of the hole but after extracting eight loads of water, De Bique-Meade said, they realized that the hole was actually a well. A private contractor was then hired to pump out the water but the hole kept refilling.
De Bique-Meade said 20 trucks were removed from the yard and sent to Skinner Park. A shuttle was arranged to take the workers to their various stations.
Initially, De Bique-Meade said, the workers planned to cover the hole with a steel plate and pave it over with asphalt but this plan was later abandoned as the hole grew larger.
"We realize now that the best thing to do is to halt the work and get a geologist to do testing before we attempt to cover it," she added.
Mayor taking no chances with workers' safety–
San Fernando Mayor Kazim Hosein who visited the site yesterday said he was taking no chances with workers' safety.
"We will be meeting with engineers and we will get officials from WASA to examine the hole," Hosein said. He also said that he planned to complete the works building which has been under construction for the past 18 years.
"I wish to assure the public that following the appearance of a sinkhole at the corporation's Carib Street Complex, measures have been put in place to prevent any disruptions to the city's sanitation and engineering services over the coming days. The corporation retains access to a number of vehicles from the Carib Street Transportation Yard and our staff is committed to making every effort to ensure there are no interruptions to the services we provide to the residents of our city," he said.
Hosein said the corporation's Engineering Department was conducting a thorough investigation into the causes of the sinkhole. "I have full confidence in the corporation's Engineering Department's ability to conduct this investigation and the necessary repairs in an efficient manner. It would be premature and irresponsible to comment on the causes of the sinkhole before the Engineering Department completes its investigation. Only a detailed investigation can really answer that question and the corporation is making this a priority," he said.
He also said the corporation has retained the services of Caribbean Well Services Limited to assist in the investigation and repair of the sinkhole.
Meanwhile, CEO Indarjit Singh said he did not foresee any problems with the unfinished structure.
"This well is new to us but we know about another well close by which we capped. These wells are man-made because we saw an overflow that was clogged," Singh said. He said the corporation will continue to allow the water to accumulate and do further inspection.