Flooding was not at alarming levels, but agency prepared -civil defence head

The Civil Defence Commission (CDC) said that while yesterday’s flooding did not reach “alarming” levels, it was ready to deal with emergencies but needed public support.

“Well prepared… is relative. If you are talking if there is like a Hurricane Katrina emergency, not so sure… But we are ready to coordinate with the resources we have should there be flooding,” CDC’s Operations and Training Officer Major Kester Craig told Stabroek News yesterday.

He and Deputy Director of the CDC Francis Abraham yesterday sat down for an interview with this publication to discuss strategies devised to deal with yesterday’s flooding in the city and future plans of the agency. “This [yesterday’s flooding] hasn’t reached proportion for alarm. The water is at a manageable level. The people who have been flooded would be alarmed but a national alarm? No,” Abraham said.

CDC’s Operations’ officer informed that although the weather forecast by the meteorological centre for Georgetown for Tuesday night into yesterday morning was not accurate, his agency was monitoring the rains. He said that throughout yesterday, teams were deployed to areas reportedly hardest hit to assess the damage. He said persons suffered losses mostly of home furnishings and appliances.

Preliminary reports up to press time from Albouystown, Charles-town, Alberttown, Camp-bellville, Queenstown, Kingston, Bourda, North and South Ruimveldt and Cummingsburg showed that they were hardest hit. Craig said water levels in some of the areas were as high as ten inches but by 6 pm, seemed to be receding.

He said that as long as the rains were not as consistent into last night most of the areas should see major relief by the ending of today. “Flooding in the city also has to do with drainage capacity and garbage blockage,” he said.

“The water being on the land is dependent on rainfall over the next 24-48 hours. Based on Accu-weather’s forecast it shows that today [yesterday] tomorrow [today] and Friday will have occasional rainfall but that is subject to change because we know weather isn’t constant,” he said.

However CDC’s major concern about yesterday’s flooding was waterborne disease outbreaks. As such the agency is closely liaising with the Ministry of Health which is monitoring public health centres and hospitals for any reports of symptoms associated with these diseases.

The CDC yesterday handed over to the Health Ministry chlorine tablets for distribution for water treatment in flooded areas. Sandbags were also given to the GPHC as a preventative measure there.

Craig said though that without the public’s assistance all plans and strategies are worthless as it is the people who would have to act on decisions made. As such, both he and Abraham called on the public to stay away from flood waters. They are also asking that persons take precautions during the night to monitor the rainfall and flooding in their areas ensuring also that all important documents are secured and appliances not left to be immersed in water.

Abraham informed that over the years, more so since the Great Flood of 2005, the agency has undergone major upgrades to deal with disasters.

As such while the CDC waits for certain plans to be implemented there is a current interim strategy to fall back on should there be major flooding in the country. The disaster plans include preparedness plans such as warning, evacuations, sheltering needs and search and rescue plans. In addition there are contingency plans in anticipation that something unexpected occurs and forward planning concerned with development of specific plans to meet an immediate emergency.

“From 2005 to now we are looking at risk reduction [the disaster risk reduction platform]. We are working with members of all the ministries: Health, Public Works, Agriculture, the NDIA and donor agencies –  IDB UNDP, PAHO – to discuss measures that can reduce flooding so that it’s more of a proactive than reactive reaction,” Abraham said.

“We have a plan that is in the draft stage so next it’s public consultations then cabinet approval and implementation. We are hoping that soon all of this can be completed,” he added.

The CDC Deputy Director pointed out that it is disappointing when his agency holds public awareness sessions and they are poorly attended. He pleaded with the public to attend consultations whenever they are held.

Nonetheless, through partnering with Regional Democratic Councils, in all regions countrywide, for disaster risk management and reduction, the agency hopes that more persons, with special emphasis on youth, can be reached and edified. “CDC basically acts as the coordinating agency on emergencies but we know when all stakeholders are aware and edified and we work in unison disaster preparedness countrywide is more effective …that’s what we want,” Abraham noted.




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