Lethem, surrounding areas flooded after heavy rain

Photos by Daniel Gajie

The main road from Annai to Lethem going towards the Pirara Bridge yesterday morning. (Photo by Daniel Gajie)

Three days of constant rain at night has left several villages in the Region 9, Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo area flooded,  forcing the evacuation of some residents.

Up to press time residents were worried that the water seemed to still be rising although the rainfall had stopped.

Rain had blanketed the Rupununi for the past week and more is expected based on  weather forecasts, Regional Chairman Brian Allicock told Stabroek News last night.

He was at the time being driven around to assess the situation on the ground. The Region 9 Chairman explained that they have managed to evacuate 26 persons and they are now being housed at shelters set up at the Arapaima Primary School.

He noted that they have also designated the Amerindian Hostel and Culvert City Nursery School as additional shelters for residents.

“We have been putting systems in place. We left telephone numbers with the villages. If villagers need to be evacuated we would send for them. They can contact us if the situation gets worse tonight,” he assured.

The telephone numbers are 648-7969 and 630-2470. Drivers and vehicles are on standby to evacuate affected persons to the shelters, this newspaper was told.

Allicock added that they might need to use boats and engines to go into some low-lying villages to rescue residents because of the situation at hand.

The Regional Chairman said that the water levels have been raising rapidly in some areas and they are currently monitoring the situation.

According to Allicock, there are at least 50 villages affected but that he has not had any reports of homes being damaged.

He went on to add that in the South Rupununi vehicles have been restricted from motoring as “the roads are one with the river and there is water in the savannahs.”

Based on reports from Toshaos of the different villages, a majority of the farms, he said are inundated and as a result the roots of cassava plants are beginning to rot.

“Villages such as Parishara, Nappi and Hiowa are cut off from Lethem as the road is almost covered by water.  At present the river is overflowing because of the rainfall and this is flooding the farms…”, he noted.

He said a team had left to visit Sand Creek but was unable to say if they arrived and carried out any assessment, since the roads leading to the community may be underwater.

Allicock explained that there would be a meeting this morning with a team from the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) and they would be going out into villages in the South Rupununi to assess the situation. That area he said is heavily affected.

Major Kester Craig, Head of Operations at the CDC told Stabroek News that they were being briefed and are currently working along with the Regional Democratic Council to monitor the situation as they prepare to deploy a team today.

“The CDC is in contact with the Regional Council and Mayor of Lethem, we asked to activate the emergency centres for residents to go. They would be making announcements over the radio informing residents where the centres are,” he explained.

According to Craig, the CDC team, along with a government minister, will make a trip to Region 9 to gain an “extensive understanding of the situation flooding” and the needs.

The flooding, based on information received, looks like the result of heavy rainfall causing the Takutu River and the Ireng River to rise, he said. “As a result, those communities along those rivers are likely to be flooded. So far we have confirmation of flooding in central Rupununi and Tabatinga and there is likely to be in other areas,” he said.

Resident and hotelier, Daniel Gajie said that a drive from Annai to Lethem earlier yesterday showed the inundated areas and he was sure that by last night it would have worsened.

Flooding during the rainy season was nothing new he pointed out but yesterday was the worst it has been in years.

“The water continues to rise in some parts. You see we have been getting heavy rainfall every day and night for the past few days .Whenever there is rain large amounts of rain, the …river is backed up and once the Brazil side is  backed up our rainfall waters have nowhere to go, so this (happens).

“Today I left the water overtopping the road in some parts,“ he said as he listed several villages affected.

The CDC said that once it gets on the ground today there will be additional measures put in place for residents.

This bout of flooding comes after Regions 7 (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) and Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni) were severely flooded last month by rain-swollen rivers. Hundreds of dwellings were severely damaged or swept away and farms flooded. Relief operations had to be mounted.

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