Many homes in Caroni Village were under water yesterday, after the Caroni River broke its banks overnight, leaving a dozen streets flooded and over 1,000 residents affected.
The river overflowed due to persistent rains on Wednesday into Thursday.
Residents were still ascertaining the cost of their losses when Guardian media visited, but blamed the lack of infrastructure work along the Caroni River bank and unauthorised and unplanned development along the bank as the cause.
Speaking to Guardian Media mere meters from where the riverbank was breached, however, Chaguanas West MP Dinesh Rambally blamed the excessive flooding in the community on a lack of maintenance of the sluice gates of the Caroni River.
“Yesterday, midday and last night, what we saw was that due to a lack of maintenance of the sluice gates on the Caroni River bank, water from the Caroni River, even before it toppled the actual height of the bank, the lack of functioning sluice gates, water started to fill. When the actual river water started to rise to such heights, it topples over the height of the riverbank, then it starts to cross onto the street beyond and come in,” Rambally, who stayed overnight Thursday with the residents to bring some level of relief, said.
Couva South MP Rudy Indarsingh, who lives in the affected area, added that governmental agencies and regional corporations need to work with the MP and the Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation chairman, since the issue needs a dual effort.
“We would expect that when the water subsides, the Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation undergoes a very thorough flood assessment of this area as it relates to possibly flood relief grants for those who would have been impacted as a result of the unforeseen flooding and in addition to that, to ensure that they use their cesspool trucks to carry out an immediate emptying of the cesspools in this particular jurisdiction and also a thorough spraying of the area,” Indarsingh said.
But those affected got some relief from the Ministry of Works and Transport, as a portable pump was placed in the area to help pump water out of the community. This, however, was hindered somewhat as the water level was not high enough to allow the pump to operate at optimal level.
Resident Mitchell Ramnath said the pump sent by the ministry was not of much help to the community.
“It has been since 10 o’clock in the morning yesterday (Thursday) the water has been rising, they brought a pump to try to send down the water. I left them at 4.30 am and by the time I came out here at 8 o’clock this morning, the water had doubled in volume capacity,” he said.
Another resident, Larry Kowlessar, said he was hoping flooding could be alleviated in the area, as his home had been affected by floodwaters for yet another time. He said he was unable to go out to work yesterday, adding government representatives had visited before the floodwaters came but their promises were empty.
“Since yesterday, we have seen several people known and unknown, coming taking pictures, asking questions, back and forth, making promises and that’s the end of the story,” he said.
He added that the issue was not with the current Government but a matter of neglect and misplaced priorities.
“At this point in time, there might be hardly another area in this country facing flood, we should not have flood as well, but from 2017, because of climate change and things like that, we realise that the volume of water now coming from the river and wherever and into the river is just too much for this little drain 40 years ago, which has outgrown its usefulness.”
But he said the solution is not overly complicated.
“All this needs is another cylinder under the road, side by side to the current one and that drain to be opened about 46 feet wide. We will have no need for any pump or drama, nothing like that. The road here to put that in is about 14 feet in width, so we are talking about 14 feet of work, that is not going to be expensive and this has been happening for many, many years.”
The residents hope a solution can be found and with clean-up teams from the corporation and ministry deployed in the area, were praying that the water subsided so that their concerns about the riverbank can be rectified.
Meanwhile, residents of Ibis Gardens yesterday raised concerns that the Caroni River would burst its banks and flood the 200 or so houses in their community.
According to the residents, the riverbank, which was some 20 feet wide before, has now been narrowed to 18 inches.
The residents said the Ministry of Works and Transport was informed about the issue two months ago but nothing has been done to correct the problem to date. And with the river swelling due to heavy rains on Thursday night, the residents were fearful that they would be flooded out.