Flooding at Salem as rising tide smashes koker door

Two Salem residents, Yonette Nedd and Eavette Rhimes assessing their poultry losses.

Residents of Salem, East Bank Essequibo (EBE) got a rude awakening after the water level began to rise when a sluice door collapsed at around 2.30 am yesterday.

They told Stabroek News yesterday that the sluice operators were closing the doors when four planks from one of the doors fell off, resulting in overtopping of the drains. Due to this, residents were forced to move appliances and livestock to higher grounds, as water flooded into their yards.

Yesterday’s tide was at its highest at 2.49 am, a height of 3.18 meters.

According to the Guyana Hydrometeorological Office, the spring tide warnings have been in effect since June 20th, and will last unto 29th June.

While some residents managed to save their appliances and livestock, others suffered losses.

It is unclear if any reports were made to the relevant authorities regarding the faulty koker door; to the knowledge of the residents, no such reports were made.

However, after Regional authorities became aware of the situation, planks were deployed to the sluice gate to create a temporary block, to prevent residents from being affected by the tide. Stabroek News understands that measures are being put in place to repair the broken sluice door.

One resident who asked not to be named, explained to this newspaper that approximately 6 to 8 inches of water had accumulated on the land. The man added that after the water began to rise, residents who were awake alerted their neighbours. “Some boys who were up and on the road, they saw the water rising and called up to us…,” the man recalled.

The resident opined that the situation could have been prevented if a report had been made to the Regional Democratic Council, but based on his inquiries, no report of the faulty door was made. He went on to say that the sluice door had been repaired only a few years ago, and it is unfortunate that it has deteriorated within such a short time span.  The man believes that the required type of wood was not used on the door, and called on the regional officials to ensure contractors comply with building regulations.

“I know greenheart wood is recommended to be used for works like this, but it looks as if the contractor didn’t use greenheart. The planks on the door broke clean off… with greenheart that is not so… greenheart break piece by piece,” he explained.

In the aftermath, when Stabroek News visited the community yesterday, a few residents were counting their losses of livestock. The water which had accumulated in the yards had already receded, and temporary planks had been put in place to prevent water from seeping into yards and drains, as the tide rose yesterday afternoon.  Residents explained that those who were most affected lived in section B of Salem, EBE.

Residents took precautionary measures by placing sand bags at their doors, in case the temporary fix to the three-door koker failed.

Pauline (only name given) recalled that when her family was awakened, they had to find high grounds for her son’s (who operates a chicken business) freezers. She noted that they were fortunate that the water did not enter their home. To her knowledge, the waters began to recede from the yards around 7 am.

Yonette Nedd, a livestock farmer was not as lucky as her neighbour, as she suffered losses to her stock. Nedd stated that she lost approximately 150 birds which would have been ready for the market in two weeks. She also lost about five bags of feed.

Nedd recalled that when she got up yesterday morning to prepare for work around 2.30 am, her yard was covered in water, but she had not expected it to reach to the pen.

“In all my 29 years of living here, we never got a flooding like this… this is the worst… we would get water at the corner of the yard, but that is it. It is the first time I am seeing this,” she recalled.

During this newspaper’s visit, Nedd was in the process of relocating approximately 90 birds which had survived, to higher parts of the pen.

She said that she was unable to elevate the other birds from the pen, and her freezers were in a storeroom in the bottom flat of the house. She explained that the water level was above her ankle. She was unable to put a figure to her losses.

Another neighbour, Eavette Rhimes, also lost some of her livestock but was able to save the majority. She told SN after they learnt that the koker’s door had broken away, they rushed to save her livestock and was about to seek shelter for her stocks at Nedd’s pen, when they realized it was engulfed by water and her birds were under threat.

Rhimes called on the authorities to quickly remedy the situation, as she is fearful that the temporary fix might not prevent flooding from recurring.

She called for works to be done on the koker wings, as they have been slowly eroding due to the tide. “For the past three years, the koker tide been like this, and nothing is being done. We went to the Region in a group, but only promises were made,” she recalled.

Efforts made by this newspaper to contact the Regional Chairman, Julius Faerber for a comment on the situation proved futile, as telephone calls went unanswered.

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