Traffic along the Friendship Public Road on the East Bank Demerara (EBD) was at a crawl most of yesterday, after a bypass close to a bridge under repair was eroded by flood waters.
The bypass, located on the western side of the roadway, was flooded as a result of a spring tide which is in effect until tomorrow. The spring tide has left several areas along the mouth of the Demerara River under inches of water for most of the past four days. Last evening, residents said that several vehicles were stuck along the bypass as sections of the temporary road feature washed away.
An official of local construction company R Bassoo and Sons, which is effecting repairs to the bridge, said employees discovered the situation when they arrived to commence work yesterday morning. The official said the area was under water since over the weekend, when the spring tide became effective. According to employees of the company, the presence of the water coupled with heavy traffic compounded the situation. It was noted that since Monday the area appeared to be threatened by the encroaching waters.
During the morning hours yesterday, there were long lines of traffic which extended as far as New Hope on the northern side of the bridge and at Supply on the southern side. Several passengers travelling to the city and in the direction of Timehri lined the roadway, as access to transportation became difficult.
Meanwhile, according to residents, water from the nearby Demerara River swamped several yards there last weekend. It was also noted that while the area is susceptible to flooding, several businesses had “built-up” lands situated close to the river side, while revetment works were also undertaken by the authorities to a section of the roadway, a stone’s throw away from the bridge. The recent spring tide nevertheless swamped the area.
DIDCO felt the brunt of flooding over the past several days and the compound of one of the company’s buildings, located opposite the bridge, was under several inches of water yesterday.
A huge crater in the road also affected traffic as did several small potholes, which were covered by the water. A Route 42 minibus operator said the crater “was a small hole but it jus erode over the weekend.” The flooded roadway saw motorists experiencing difficulty dodging the crater and several became stuck temporarily while others veered off the road. After it was pointed out by commuters that the spot should have been marked, employees of the construction company placed a marker in the form of a reflector in the affected area.
According to a police traffic officer, traffic flow was “normal” through Friendship early yesterday morning but the rush hour brought a build-up, since only one lane in the bypass could be utilised by motorists.
While the ongoing repair at the bridge had affected traffic, the situation yesterday left frustration written across the faces of motorists and stranded commuters. The bridge was expected to be completed within the next three weeks. However, late yesterday this newspaper was told that workers were preparing to have the bridge opened to traffic before the end of the week given the congestion.
Several commuters told this newspaper that the traffic had been moving slowly since dawn and as the daytime stretched the lines began to grow. At Supply, a man and his wife were awaiting transportation to travel to the Diamond Hospital to seek treatment for their ill two-year-old daughter. The man said they had been the road for more than three hours.
Persons travelling to the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) at Timehri also vented their frustration at the situation, while others travelling from the airport were stuck in the line of traffic for hours.
Many students of the Friendship Secondary School walked to school from as far as Soesdyke. They said that accessing transportation to school became difficult since the bridge repairs started.
Meanwhile, several communities along lower EBD were yesterday morning under several inches of water as the spring tide, which became effective on Saturday, swamped several low-lying areas. Residents living aback Herstelling and Farm told this newspaper that their yards were flooded earlier in the day as the tide rose. The water level dropped some time after 7 am yesterday, but several areas remained under thick slush.
The spring tide experienced over the weekend was one of the highest recorded and the Ministry of Agriculture late last week urged residents in low-lying areas to be vigilant and take precautionary measures against flooding.
This newspaper had reported in the past on the threat posed by the Demerara River on dwellings located along the western side of the roadway and ultimately the road passing along the river bank. At the village of Craig, an area which had been under water on several occasions during spring tide, revetment works being undertaken to curb flooding there recently are nearing completion. Previous work carried out there had seen the infrastructure falling into the river. Engineers have posited that frequent dredging of the river as well as maintenance of drainage infrastructure along the river, among other factors, were key issues which needed to be addressed by the authorities to cushion the effects of tidal incidents.
At Meadow Bank, where there has been constant flooding owing to the heavy rainfall and overtopping of the seawall during the spring tide, sections of the roads have started to erode. This is causing damage to the vehicles and residents have had to incur expense to fix them. They are calling on the authorities to address the issue of the flooding and fix the streets urgently.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture said it is continuing to make emergency interventions to mitigate the effects of the spring tide.
Areas being affected by the current spring tide include La Harmony, Catherina, Sophia, Vryheid’s Lust, Maria’s Lodge, and Free and Easy. On the West Demerara areas affected include Vive la Force, Patentia, Wales, Nismes, La Retraite, Poudero-yen, Vreed-en-Hoop and Canal Number One (Conser-vancy area) Spillweir. On the Essequibo, Parika, Hubu, Benoff, Saint Lawrence, Maripa, Morashi, Salem, Eastern Hogg Island, Quarter Benabu, Fort Island, Success-Leguan Island, Uniform-Leguan Island, San Souci-Wakenaam, Palmyra, Maria-Wakenaam, Large & Small, Dococlabu, Great Troulie Island are affected.
The ministry said in a statement that technical officers have moved to implement measures and undertake assessments of spring tide effects resulting in the overtopping of vulnerable low lying river and sea defences along coastal and riverain communities. It said that special teams of technical officers are currently visiting areas that are being affected.
In Region Three, the Windsor Forest koker was unable to close properly after an object blocked the door but this was later fixed, Region Three Chairman Julius Faerber said. He said rice crops were affected by flooding but this was because of the rains and not the spring tides. Faerber said there has been no major flooding in the Region from the overtopping. In Vreed-en-Hoop, the secondary school and the post office were forced closed after the water swamped the compound.
The ministry said teams will continue to interact with farmers/residents of the areas and discuss possible emergency interventions to get sea water off the land by ensuring all internal drainage systems are functioning efficiently. In addition, the ministry will continue to provide support to the Ministry of Public Works which has responsibility for Sea and River Defence.
It listed interventions that have been made. In Region Two, the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) awarded a contract for empoldering works to be undertaken in the Pomeroon areas. To date, 1,400 rods have been completed from Akewini to Grant Victoria. A pump is also operational at Charity which was affected by the recent tide. Sandbags were also placed at Charity and Aurora, where overtopping occurred, the ministry said.
In Region Three, a pump was installed at Waterloo, Leguan and critical canals were cleared, while in Region Four, the NDIA installed two pumps at Timehri and Buxton while two stop offs were installed at Madewini Creek so as to not allow water from the high tide to enter the creek. In Helena, Mahaica a pump was installed and sandbags were placed at the Mahaica stelling. An additional pump was also placed at Huntley, Cane Grove, the ministry said.
In Region Five, dredging was undertaken at the Abary River mouth to facilitate the free flow of water. Pumps were installed at Blairmont, Number Two Village and an additional pump was installed Paradise to assist with the draining of the residential areas. Farmers in the Mahaica Mahaicony Abary-Agricultural Development Authority (MMA/ ADA) areas have also benefited from fuel to assist with pumping. In the Bellamy area, excavation works were undertaken. The MMA/ADA also assisted with the mobilisation of a machine for the Ministry of Public Works to undertake works at Perth. The NDIA also has machines within the Mahaicony/ Mahaica areas assisting farmers with empolder-ing and heightening dams. The MMA/ADA and NDIA are monitoring the situation closely in these areas, the release said. (Additional reporting by Gaulbert Sutherland and Shabna Ullah)