Spring tides smash West Dem sea defence, houses

-three villages flooded, Leonora Hospital closed

Massive waves, mere seconds apart, overtopped the seawall during yesterday afternoon’s high tide, quickly flooding the streets and dam below. (Photo by Keno George)

Towering spring tides yesterday flooded three villages on the West Coast Demerara, destroying houses, smashing 75 feet of the Uitvlugt sea defence, drowning livestock and displacing patients of the Leonora Hospital.

The high tides began at around 3 pm on Thursday, according to reports, flooding the streets and bottom houses of residents who reside closest to the seawall. But it was the waves that crept up in the wee hours of yesterday that caused the most damage, and in the aftermath of the early morning destruction, residents had braced themselves in anticipation of another rising tide, scheduled to hit again at 3 pm.

At close to 4 pm, scores of residents had congregated in the streets at Uitvlugt, some with cameras raised, as the water poured in around them, draining in torrents into the surrounding trenches and dams, inundating the area within minutes.

The scene was mirrored at Leonora and Stewartville, where similar devastation was experienced.

Temporary disaster relief camps have been set up at the Uitvlugt Community Centre and the Uitvlugt Secondary School, to accommodate residents affected by the flooding.

According to a release from the Department of Public Information (DPI), the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) will reportedly be providing 100 camp cots, 100 blankets, 100 pillows, cooking utensils and meals to residents displaced by the flooding.

These meals—breakfast, lunch and dinner—are being served until Monday.

It was related that sanitation and cleaning hampers are also being prepared for distribution.

Meanwhile, residents were bracing for another round with the high tides today.

Earlier, Chief Sea and River Defence officer, Kevin Samad told the DPI that approximately 75 feet of the upper part of the concrete crest wall of the Uitvlugt seawall had broken resulting in the area being flooded. The force of the water also broke off a portion of the asphalt on the “Old Well side” road, and transported it several feet away, where it rested in the middle of the street. At Leonora, a section of the seawall was eroded, leaving behind panels of freshly exposed mud. At Stewartville, fences, shacks and vegetation were levelled, and workmen, attached to BK Inter-national, were seen using an excavator to fill mud into a section of the seawall that had broken off.

50 Ft waves

According to a CDC Damage Assessment Report, shared by DPI yesterday morning, the waves rose in excess of 25 feet, and extended as far as 50 feet, to the roofs of homes.

It was reported that 32 households in Stewartville were affected by the flooding, including 11 in the squatting area and 21 regularised residents. Additionally, the waters reportedly affected three of four blocks within Ocean View, Uitvlugt.

The effects of the rise in tide could be seen even a few villages away, where, at La Jalousie, a carpet of refuse, hundreds of plastic bottles among displaced logs and twigs, lay strewn along the dam.

“In split seconds, the place was flooded…By the time I woke up a little after 4, I think it was, and we moved the vehicles from the garage, by the time the vehicles came out, and we went back in, water was knee high,” Uitvlugt resident Shaleeza Khan recounted, stating that she had close to 15 inches of water in her yard.

“…The time since I’ve been living here, the only time I know it flooded was in 2013 and it was nothing compared to this, and people who grew up here, like old people, they’re saying that they’ve never seen anything like this,” she stated. Khan has lived at Ocean View, Uitvlugt for 19 years.

Residents were left in awe at the towering waves that crashed over the seawall and the flooding that followed.

“It was terrible. Terrible. I live here, born and grow, I never reach up something like this,” Richie Mahadeo, a shop owner at 3rd Street Uitvlugt related, recalling that the village had experienced a flood in 2013, but nothing of that magnitude.

Mahadeo lost hundreds of thousands in food and grocery items and suffered damage to electrical appliances. The zinc fence behind the house was also destroyed, some of the sheets having been washed away by the ocean waters.

“…All them flour, rice, sugar, everything, gone. The next band, get wah ya could ah get out, pack em up high, carry dem upstairs, pack some things there. All wah deh bottom damage. The whole fence at the back deh damage. Me ain even know bout the freezer dem and the fridge dem. The washing machine, everything,” he related.

“This nah easy wa abi pass through, me can’t bear this no more,” his wife, Vijantie, said.

Another Uitvlugt resident, Rajdai Singh, lost close to 300 chickens to the floodwaters on Thursday, as well as suffered damage to her kitchen garden. Her family’s house, located on the corner of the Old Well road, faced the brunt of the waves yesterday afternoon, when the tides came in once again, quickly flooding the yard as those residing there watched on helplessly.

“Wah go with the water go, wah save, it save,” Stewartville resident Stacy stated. Her wardrobe had come apart in the floodwaters, taking some of her clothes with it. “The whole thing loose up and the door alone I get back,” she explained. Her mattress had been soaked by the rising water, but her neighbour had been kind enough to lend her a replacement.

Outside, Stacy showed the spot in her yard where the bathroom had been knocked down by the impact of the waves.

The houses bordering the seawall at Stewartville suffered even more damage, as one resident related that the columns of his house had collapsed, bringing it to the ground. That had been the fate of several houses built on that stretch.

The waves yesterday afternoon appeared to rival the waves experienced earlier in the day. A CDC representative had related that the tides were expected to rise to 3.2 meters the highest yesterday.

Leonora Hospital

The king tides flooded the majority of the lower level of the Leonora Hospital, save for the newly built operating theatre and maternity unit, and destroyed the air conditioning units inside. Other machinery was saved because of the action of the hospital’s security, which took the initiative to move them to higher ground.

All patients of the Leonora hospital were transferred to the Mildred Cox Young Health Centre, located at Den Amstel, where they will remain until the Leonora Hospital is in a functional state again.

Junior Minister of Public Health, Dr Karen Cummings related on the scene yesterday that the health centre will be offering 24/7 service in the interim. DPI, in a release later on, stated that the health centres at Uitvlugt community centre and De Kinderen would also be operating on a 24-hour basis, and would be utilized to address emergencies.

Cummings, along with the Regional Health Officer and Deputy Director of the CDC Colonel Kester Craig, toured the facility yesterday, following cleanup efforts by the firemen based at the nearby station.

Administrator of the Leonora Hospital Kathlene Armstrong commended the firefighters for their work, declaring that they were prompt in their service. After cleanup, the men secured the entryways with sandbags to protect the facility from the tides that were to follow.


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