Sections of Georgetown were flooded yesterday afternoon after high tides bashed the Kingston koker door in and engineers were at press time putting in place a temporary wall to keep out the next high tide scheduled for 5.21 am today.
The koker door broke around minutes to 5pm yesterday, the attendant stated, and water from the Demerara River rushed through nearby areas. The attendant also said that the door broke due to the force of the water that was hitting it. Up to press time, the situation was under control and the water had begun to recede in parts of Georgetown including the Lamaha Street canal.
Bemused city residents watched as water levels in the Lamaha Street canal and others rose rapidly. In other streets, yards and compounds were flooded including those of State House and the Ministry of Finance.
The high tide occurred at around 1707 hrs yesterday at a height of 2.78 metres and began to recede around 1900hrs yesterday. Another high tide is expected at around 5:21am today at a height of 2.80 metres.
The breach of the koker caused the Civil Defence Commission to issue a warning to residents in nearby areas to take precautions.
At the Kingston koker yesterday afternoon, teams from the Ministry of Public Works were executing the emergency works to stop the flow of water into the canals. The water was seen gushing through at a very fast rate, leading to rising levels in Main Street and other areas and in the yards of residents. Around 10 last night workers were still installing wooden planks to stop the flow of water and the broken koker door had been removed.
Police cordoned off the areas surrounding the koker yesterday afternoon so that the works could be carried out. Present were Minister of Works, Robeson Benn, engineer at the Ministry, Walter Willis, and sea defence head, Geoffrey Vaughn. Low-bed trailers were seen bringing in heavy-duty machinery to assist with the emergency works. There was also an excavator on a barge being used to put the planks in place.
Benn explained what was happening. “There are slots in the sides of the koker which are designed to put in 2 x 12 or in this case 18 x 17 logs to stop the flow of the water in case you had to repair the koker, which makes a semi-permanent stop…it would not react to the tide. So we are putting in those as an emergency measure to keep the water out to effect repairs eventually to the koker. The first thing of course is to stop the water coming in,” the Minister said.
Asked how successful the efforts were, the Minister said that there was definitely a slowdown in the water “because they put in about eight or nine stop logs and they are bringing in a few more now.”
He said that the tide was also falling and that should make the task easier for the workmen on the ground. “As soon as the tide goes out we will allow much of the water to run back out and fit the stop logs back in and hold them tight against the tide,” Benn said.
Asked how long it would take to effect repairs on the door itself, the Minister said that this was the responsibility of the City Council and he could not speak to this. “It is the City Council’s koker and they would have to answer the question how long it would take to repair the door. But if you had to repair it you would have to have all the wood at the correct sizes and it could be a proper two-day job if you have all of the [materials],” he said.
Sections of Main Street were covered in about two feet of water yesterday afternoon. Other areas that were flooded included Cowan Street, Duke Street, New Market Street, portions of Water Street, the Ministry of Finance building, State House and the Guyana Elections Commission. The Marriott building site and the compound of the Transport and Harbours Department, further north were spared from the rising water.
Motorists carefully navigated the floodwaters while plastic bottles and boxes floated in the streets.
Mayor of Georgetown, Hamilton Green, said that they did not expect the koker door to collapse with the high tide and that they were trying to put in place a double door for when the other tide comes. When asked how soon this will be done, he replied that they are waiting on the tide to go down. He said “we knew that they were extremely heavy tides…it caught us and as you know we have problems with maintenance in general.”
He also said, when asked if the koker door had shown any signs of damage, “not really it’s the kind of package you cannot see with your bare eyes but we looked at it earlier. As I said, because of the ferocity and the height (of the waves) what happened was really not quite expected.”
President Donald Ramotar was also at the scene around 5:30pm assessing the situation. In speaking to the media, President Ramotar said that his residence, State House was also under water. He said that he hopes by the next tide they can prevent the flooding from recurring and that the Ministry of Works together with contractors are trying to block the water from coming in.
One resident of Kingston said that this is the third time that they are suffering as a result of the koker. Acting Town Clerk Carol Sooba, who was at the scene, was asked by the resident what the City Council is doing about the situation. Sooba did not respond to the question.
Another resident said that the water began to quickly rise in her yard forcing her to pick up her furniture and other things. The resident also said that her vinolay was damaged and that she could not cook since her stove had to be put away because of the floodwaters.
On February 6 this year, the Kingston koker was left partially opened and flooding also occurred in several areas of the city while in June last year, a similar situation occurred when the koker attendant left it open.