The communities of Stewartville and Uitvlugt gained some relief from the effects of the spring tide over the weekend, and government utilized the opportunity to commence the cleanup efforts, and begin repairs to the sea defence structure.
Workers of the Ministry of Public Infrastructure’s core group were observed moving through Uitvlugt yesterday, removing debris that had accumulated in the roadways and trenches.
Excavators were also being used to relocate mud and rocks to fill in and reinforce the battered sections of the Uitvlugt Seawall, where the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) had reported that 75 feet of the sea defence had been broken.
Residents were also provided with cleaning hampers, which included mops, scrubbing brushes, Jeyes fluid, bleach, soap powder and soap, to initiate their own cleanup exercises.
The high tides began around 3 pm last Thursday, and Friday saw waves rising in excess of 25 feet, extending to the height of the roofs of many homes.
According to residents, they experienced another high tide during the wee hours of Saturday morning but the waves were not as powerful as those that they had previously experienced.
As a result of the rise in tide, the Leonora Cottage Hospital was flooded and patients had to be relocated; houses were destroyed at Stewartville; livestock was destroyed; fences and structures were weakened and washed away by the floodwaters.
Although another surge in tide had been expected Saturday afternoon at 5pm, there was no overtopping of the seawall as was experienced the two days prior, and even yesterday, when Stabroek News visited the location, the tide remained relatively low.
CDC’s Preparedness and Response Manager Major Sean Welcome, said yesterday that they are hoping that the situation remained in the current state so that the residents can transition back into their regular routines.
According to their assessment, a total of 350 households in Ocean View, Uitvlugt, and 30 households in Sea View Stewartville, were affected by the floods on Thursday and Friday. Three families at Stewartville had their houses completely destroyed.
“…There is a plan that’s being formulated for them. I am not privy to the details as yet, but I know efforts are being made to see how we can accommodate them,” Welcome related.
Minister of Natural Resources Rafael Trotman, along with Welcome and a team, including representatives from the Stewartville NDC and the Community, toured the communities yesterday, as residents related their plight to the minister and pleaded for assistance.
At Stewartville, Ceyon Barnes and Nicholas Beaton, pointed out the areas on the Sea View dam where their houses had once stood before being flattened by the waves.
Omadai Singh, the other Stewartville resident whose house was also destroyed by the
floodwaters, related that she had been at the hospital when disaster struck. The 9-months-pregnant woman returned, not to “home” but to a collapsed structure.
The foundations of the houses belonging to two others, Samantha Albert and Sattesh Williams, had seemingly being weakened by the impact of the waves, resulting in the tilting of the structures.
Those, whose homes have been destroyed, or, who have been unable to rest at their own residences, because of the severity of the flooding, have sought refuge at the temporary shelter set up at the Uitvlugt Community Centre ground.
Welcome related that those who had been housed at the temporary shelter set up at the Uitvlugt Secondary School have also been relocated to the Community Centre. There are currently 40 persons making use of the accommodations there, which should be available until Tuesday.
Welcome said that the Regional Executive Officer of Region Three, Dennis Jaikarran mentioned that the shelter would be maintained for as long as needed. He, however, noted that if this is required, it is likely that coordination would be handed over to the Region.
“We’ve developed and implemented what we call the Regional Disaster Risk Management System and it is a framework which looks after disaster management within the administrative regions. Thus far, we’ve completed nine out of the ten administrative regions, and the regions that we’ve worked with so far, they have systems that they can engage and activate that can help to mitigate, and in some cases, prevent the harsh impacts of hazards…,” Welcome explained, noting that if the decision is made to extend the life of the shelter, it is likely that the regional disaster management committee would be spearheading the operations, with the CDC providing technical support.
Up until lunch time yesterday, the shelter had provided meals for 185 residents, Welcome said, 85 more than they had initially intended to cater for. The shelter has been providing breakfast, lunch and dinner to persons, even those who are not being accommodated at the shelter.
While government is funding the majority of the relief efforts, Welcome indicated that the CDC has been receiving private sector support as well, mentioning Mike Singh, Chairman of the Demerara Charitable Foundation, as a benefactor, as well as Bakewell, which donated 300 loaves of bread and bags of tennis rolls to the relief centre.
Residents lined up for food yesterday and were served, but others, who showed up later were greeted with the news that there was no food left. Welcome had explained that persons would come to the shelter and collect food for the rest of their household.
Bibi Nazera, of Ocean View, Uitvlugt, came to the centre, making enquiries about lunch and the sharing of school clothes.
“We come this morning they told we that they gon come around, and we ain see nobody come round,” she explained. The woman related that not only had her yard been flooded, but her children’s school supplies, including bags, books, and boots had all been destroyed.
“…two time abee send a di centre for food, they say come back next hour, half hour. When you go, no food, ya never geh food…dem seh dem cook fuh people wah geh flood,” Vigantie Mahadeo related.
Vigantie is the wife of Richie Mahadeo; the two own a shop in Third Street, Uitvlugt, which had been severely affected by the flood.
Yesterday, workmen had come to repair the electrical network at the house and construct a new fence, as the zinc sheets from the original fence had been washed away.
Richie recommended that the authorities consider placing rocks on the coast leading up to the seawalls to reduce the impact of the waves as they hit.
The Mahadeos were finally able to open their shop at around 10 am yesterday after being closed since Thursday afternoon. In order to clean out the shop, some stocks had to be placed outside. Vigantie reported that on Saturday night someone attempted to access their home to steal, but he was attacked by their dog. An arrest was made after police were contacted.
Police presence in the area has reportedly been increased as a result of the disaster.
Most of Ram Ramnaraine’s electrical appliances were damaged, along with a quantity of cement and steel, when the floodwaters entered his house which is currently under construction at Old Dam, Uitvlugt.
Ramnarine related that he is currently renting a house elsewhere in the village, so most of his losses were counted at the place where he presently resides, including damage to three refrigerators, a washing machine and a generator.
“The water was so fast, it come in like a tornado like wah you see in the movies, you couldn’ta do nothing. It’s after the thing then you could get sandbag. You didn’t prepare for it, so there’s nothing you can do. After we get it Thursday, we prepare so it couldn’t go in back, but it already done the damage the night before,” he recounted.
The spring tide is expected to last until today, based on the weather forecast. Residents have been warned to be alert and take the necessary precautions.