A massive clean-up was underway yesterday to remove huge amounts of garbage that accumulated along the East Coast of Demerara road between Kitty and Turkeyen, less than 24 hours after spring tides flooded the area.
The tides were fuelled by an Atlantic front, the Hydrometeorological Service of the Ministry of Agriculture said yesterday. Minister of Transport Robeson Benn had told reporters that the flooding was as a result of higher than usual spring tides, measuring 3.15 metres, and high waves striking the seawall between Turkeyen and Sheriff Street, which is “undergoing cyclical erosion.”
High tides in the area continued yesterday but Minister Benn, who was at the scene up to last evening, stated that the situation is under control. He said, “the level of the tide is declining but the problem in itself is not the fact with the tide being high but the wind… it’s a weather event that is staged with wind. Our engineers are saying that they are not seeing any big disturbances offshore but there may be a localised disturbance somewhere out there, which is interfacing with the erosion we have here.”
The minister also said that a similar tide of 2.9 metres is expected in the morning hours today but the conditions are better now. He also mentioned that a similar occurrence also took place at Cornelia Ida on the West Coast of Demerara, but the water drained off.
In a statement, the Hydrometeorological Service noted that “the Coastal Guyana has been under threat by spring tides since Tuesday 8th Jan 2013. Unfortunately, on Monday 14th Jan 2013 a frontal system passed through the Atlantic, just north east of the Lesser Antilles. This supported increase in wind flow/speeds resulting from this weather system coupled with the spring tides would have created the type of storm surges experience yesterday afternoon along Guyana’s coast.”
The statement also said that “the current spring tides are expected to continue until 16th Jan, 2013. Although the amplitude of the swells has decreased over the last 12 hours, sea conditions remain hazardous. All marine interests are advised to continue to exercise extreme caution as models are suggesting rough and high seas in open waters and along coast of Guyana for next 24 to 36 hours.”
Drainage and Irrigation (D&I) workers along with the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) staff were seen cleaning the area along the roadway as a hymac from the Ministry of Public Works cleared the clogged drains between Conversation Tree and the Ocean View International Hotel.
D&I workers from Den Amstel and Paradise were also brought to assist in the clean-up exercise. Minister Benn was also present during the exercise, which started around 7 am and ran into the afternoon.
The clogged drain from Conversation Tree to the Ocean View Hotel, which obstructed drainage, was cleaned during the exercise, resulting in the free flow of water. Volumes of mud were also left on the roadway along with pools of water. A bulldozer was also seen scooping up the pools of water settled along the road and dumping it into the nearby drains. But despite these efforts by the ministry, vehicular traffic was still forced to use one lane of the highway up to midday yesterday due to the mud.
Persons in the affected areas stated that one of the main reasons for the flooding was the small culvert that was built just after Ocean View to drain water along the seawalls. Jacob Rambarran, proprietor of the Ocean View Hotel stated that the culvert is too small to drain the amount of water that was coming over.
When asked about the issue of the culvert size, Benn noted that from the ministry’s assessment, it did not matter what size the culvert was because the water was simply too much.
Benn had also told reporters on Monday while the situation was developing that the Liliendaal Pump Station, which was choked with debris, would be in operation to drain off the excess water. A source at the Pump Station said that City Council staff worked as late as 12 am to clear the debris so as to get the station in operation yesterday. After the garbage was cleared, it began to pump water out throughout the night. A visit to the Pump Station yesterday by this newspaper showed that out of the two pumps at the site, only one was operating as the grill on the other one was bent due to the force of the water from Monday.
In addition to the flooded roadways, a huge amount of garbage was also brought by the high tides. Plastic bottles, food boxes and plastic bags littered the roadways yesterday morning. The tossing of food boxes and plastic bottles into the Atlantic Ocean by persons who use the seawalls on a daily basis and those who attend the Sunday night lime there is the main reason for the large amount of garbage brought by the tide, an official responsible for the clean-up exercise said.
Minster Benn was also asked to comment on the issue of the weekly Sunday limes along the seawalls from Sheriff Street to the Ocean View Hotel. He said, “we are looking at the situation of the Sunday night jam which contributed to the garbage accumulation.” He also said that garbage in the vicinity of the hotel is as a result of persons dumping stuff out of vehicles and household waste. He stated that “a couple plastic bags or two effectively blocks the drainage so the water does not get to where it has to be pumped out. It’s not only seawall jam stuff but stuff they throw over the wall that the tide brought back over.”
‘High like coconut trees’
Meanwhile, hotelier Rambarran has been left out of business for a few days, with millions in losses and thick mud covering his property. He recalled that he was sitting under a shed in the hotel’s compound around 3pm on Monday when he saw the force and height of water hitting the sea defence. He stated that he suspected that there would have been flooding so his staff began to move stuff on the ground floor to higher ground.
He added, “we start to clear the drain and culvert as the place began to flood. We did everything to get the water off the compound but it was building up from Conversation Tree coming down. The waves were high like the coconut trees.”
Despite their efforts, the entire hotel compound began to flood. The water then quickly moved into the lower flat of the building, soaking everything on the ground. The water was about one foot in height, Rambarran recounted.
The disaster has left the Ocean View Hotel in thick mud, both inside the building and in its compound. When Stabroek News visited the hotel yesterday, workers were seen scooping mud out of the lobby area, rooms, the kitchen and the yard.
As it relates to the items damaged, Rambarran said that three generators, televisions and mattresses were among the items that were destroyed. He also said that all his guests had to be relocated to other hotels due to the current condition of his business place. A staff comprising 50 persons is cleaning the slush out so that business can resume in two days time, Rambarran noted.
Minister Benn said that he visited the hotel and after seeing the situation he has requested the fire service to give the property a thorough wash down today.
In 2008, residents of Montrose were flooded due to overtopping of the seawall after gusting winds during a high tide. The flood lasted for about an hour and led to inundated yards and damage to household furnishings on the lower flat of the buildings. In December of 2009, spring tides also caused overtopping behind the villages of Ogle, Sparendaam, Better Hope and Montrose.