Ministry takes over smashed koker works

-new door to be in place by tonight

The Cummings Koker door smashed in by fierce tides on Tuesday will be replaced by tonight, Minister of Works Robeson Benn said yesterday, adding that the Ministry had assumed the works following the Mayor and City Council falling short of expectations.

Water flowed freely from the Demerara River through the koker on Tuesday swamping several streets in northwestern Kingston and causing enormous losses to householders and others.

Damaged parts from Parasram Juma’s shaping machine
Damaged parts from Parasram Juma’s shaping machine

Benn last night told Stabroek News that the Ministry has taken over the works to rebuild the koker and accused the Georgetown Municipality of delaying the process of fixing the door by not supplying the requisite materials.

Benn said that the repairs done on Tuesday have held up quite well to the battering of yesterday’s exceptionally high tides. “We had planned to make progress with the door but the Mayor and City Council could not produce the material in time,” said Benn.

He said that the M&CC eventually brought in the wood but the nuts and bolts to hold the door together were still not available. He said that because of the absence of the material, some six hours of potential work time on repairing the door were lost.

A yard in Cowan Street covered by thick mud
A yard in Cowan Street covered by thick mud

“Our people were there,” he said. “We had people from the Ministry of Works and the Demerara Harbour Bridge…but the Mayor called a big meeting so nothing happened for [a number of] hours,” the Minister said.

“By [tonight] we hope to have the new door in place,” he said. Asked how much the works will cost the Ministry, the Minister said that he did not have that information available. He said that upon assessing the situation the Ministry made all arrangements to procure the necessary material and commence working on the broken door. Benn on the scene on Tuesday afternoon said that the koker is the responsibility of the Georgetown Municipality.

Following the breaking of the door and the ensuing flooding, the Ministry of Works assisted by personnel from the Demerara Harbour Bridge and private contractors worked feverishly to place planks to keep the water out as a temporary measure until the new door


A pile of garbage appeared in Cowan Street after the flooding as residents threw out damaged items.
A pile of garbage appeared in Cowan Street after the flooding as residents threw out damaged items.

Water continued to seep through the makeshift door at the koker yesterday afternoon but no flooding had occurred and prior to Benn’s announcement, City Engineer Lloyd Alleyne said that the city was in the process of repairing the door.

A visit to the koker by this newspaper yesterday showed large volumes of water seeping in when the high tide rolled in. Later checks in the evening showed that no flooding had occurred and the tide had gone out.

The City Engineer also stated at a press conference that they had an engineer on site dismantling the koker door but he stated that a time frame could not be given as to how soon the door would be repaired.

A serious look at the sluice doors that are close to the sea needs to be done, Alleyne said. He suggested that wooden koker doors should be replaced with steel or aluminum ones to prevent a recurrence of Tuesday’s event.

High tides were expected and the City Council was warned about such developments. Based upon this warning, Alleyne stated that he gave specific instructions that the koker door be opened and closed at the appropriate time. The Cummings Koker was closed before the high tide and workers there reported that the tide was extremely high.

The koker door was bashed in after the high tide peaked at around 1707 hrs on Tuesday at a height of 2.78 metres. The waves broke the door and water began to flood the nearby canals which resulted in flooding in several parts of Georgetown.

Ministry of Public Works workers responded and began to place planks into the slots of the koker to block the flow of water. This assisted in blocking the water but there was still significant damage for some residents.

Shaping machine

Cleaning up at the Texila American University on Woolford Avenue after the flooding
Cleaning up at the Texila American University on Woolford Avenue after the flooding

At Lot 117 Cowan Street, Kingston, mechanic Parasram Juma said that most of his electrical appliances and machines were damaged by the sea water which flooded his yard.

Juma added that a new shipment of parts for a shaping machine used for wood working has been damaged. It cost him US$2000 to import it.

Also damaged by the salt water were a generator, one welding machine, a gear box, a number of water pumps, two blenders, a microwave, an assortment of tools and a recently bought alignment machine. He added that most of his machines in the compound could be reused but parts may be costly to import.

Juma said that he never expected Tuesday’s event.  “We do have a steady overtopping of water from the sea but never like this. To me it’s all about maintenance, if you have a koker door pulling it up every day, you’re not going to notice that it had to be fixed”, Juma said.

Juma suggested that the Public Works Ministry should build a modern koker and “do away with the colonial one” which is present. He added that a double door would be appropriate to prevent another catastrophe of a similar magnitude.

Another resident, Maxine Barrow at Lot 18 Cowan Street, Kingston said that since her house was flooded by the sea water, leaving  a trail of thick mud in her house, neither she nor the members of the home have been able to cook.

A damaged printer from  Pressy’s Enterprise
A damaged printer from Pressy’s Enterprise

“In all my six years of living in Kingston I have never experienced this flooding so much. It took me from an emotional stand point because when I came home from work (Tuesday) I was met with the stove at the front of the house”, Barrow noted.

Barrow said that appliances such as two fans, one washing machine, one refrigerator, one television, a complete desktop computer and the landline telephones were all damaged by the sea water which entered her home.

She added that apart from the losses which may range in the millions, she and her family are thankful that no one was physically hurt.

Barrow however stated “If they are going to come and make a mockery of us here in Kingston don’t let them come. Because since we are here going through this crisis none of them never visited us. We gone clean up and move on from this”.

Kattow Shaw at Lot 18 P Cowan Street, Kingston said that when her children arrived home, they saw the Cowan Street canal filled with water.

“After a few minutes a whole set of water from the canal start rush over into the yard and I ran inside to see what I could have saved but so little could have been done” Shaw said.

Main Street was littered with garbage deposited by the floodwater
Main Street was littered with garbage deposited by the floodwater

Shaw added that due to the cleaning, she and her mother did not sleep on Tuesday night and were unable to prepare meals. She said that when she attempted to cook, the water through the tap had signs of mud and other particles.

The appliances that were damaged in Shaw’s home were a vacuum cleaner, a washing machine, two DVD players, one microwave, a cabinet and a sewing machine.

Proprietor of Pressy’s Enterprise located at 118 Cowan and Parade streets, Kingston, Selwyn Prescott said that two of his printers which are used to print photographs were damaged.

He explained that at about 4:30pm on Tuesday the water in the Cowan Street canal rose to the level of the road. Prescott said that after the door of the koker broke he closed his business and sent staff home.

When this newspaper visited the photo shop, one of the printers was already outside  with another set of items which were tied off with garbage bags.

Prescott said that he did not open for business yesterday; but instead they cleaned the entire store which was filled with a large quantity of mud.

Shakila Jaikarran, who resides at Lot 5 Water Street, said that her entire yard and house was filled with water that left a rank stench.

Jaikarran said that she was concerned about any water borne disease which may have been lingering in the water which rose from the gutters and entered her home.

“The cleaning took most of my energy, is like you cleaning and you finding more places with mud. It was excessive cleaning throughout the house…it was so bad I could not even go to work today” Jaikarran noted.

The woman who resides with her son and husband said that she is now seeking to move from her premises due to the fact that it was not the first time her yard was flooded.

What to do? Engineers and employees of the Ministry of Public Works yesterday examining the smashed door from the Cummings Canal.
What to do? Engineers and employees of the Ministry of Public Works yesterday examining the smashed door from the Cummings Canal.

Over $100,000 in items such as a wardrobe, one vanity and vinyl were all damaged.

James Norton, who is a resident of Barrack Street, said that his area did not flood.

Norton said “I think the City Council and Public Works should sit down and re-think before they do stupidness. We had a good sight of what mother nature can do and they still going to put up that old door? The whole issue stem from the lack of maintenance. That is Guyana’s borders we got to protect it”.

When Stabroek News contacted Minister of Public Works, Robeson Benn, he related that he was unable to say if anyone had visited the area from his ministry but noted that a number of engineers were in the area.

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