Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 19th 2014 Contents B5
October 19, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
The global spread of Ebola has struck
terror into many, as the great disease has
already caused much devastation in Africa
and threatens even the United States at
It is, however, but another chapter in the
history of mankind in which a disease has
threatened entire populations with extinc-
tion. While a piddling debate now goes back
and forth about whether the threat of Ebola
warrants the cancellation of Carnival, and
there is much windy talk about the national
preparedness level to face the menace, few
realise that we have gone through this sort
of crisis before and with dire consequences.
In 1918-20 there was a worldwide influen-
za pandemic which caused the deaths of
nearly 100 million people. T&T was not
spared, although the fatalities were relatively
few in number.
In the 1890s typhoid and yellow fever
also took a heavy toll on the local population,
while at the St James Barracks in 1858, a
significant number of the troops stationed
there succumbed to yellow fever, because
at the time, it was believed that methane
emissions from swamps, and not mosqui-
toes, transmitted the dreaded disease.
Though hundreds died in these cumulative
epidemics, they were nothing compared to
a plague that had gone before.
In 1854 a threat loomed heavily over
Trinidad. Cholera was ravaging St Kitts,
Antigua, and other islands in the Lesser
Antilles. Barbados was particularly hard hit
where several thousand people died in a
matter of weeks. For many decades after-
wards, workmen digging white marl for
construction on that island would come
across human remains---the victims of
Quarantine was discussed, but in a busy
commercial place like Port-of-Spain this
was difficult at best. Dozens of vessels, large
and small, plied the islands carrying mail,
passengers and produce. Many landed with-
out formal customs procedures, which in
any case, did not include an inspection by
a medical officer, especially since there was
no dedicated port doctor.
Moreover, sanitation in the city was
deplorable. Cesspits and backyard wells
were side by side, with piped water being
only supplied to the Governor s cottage in
St Ann s. Those who did not have a well
on their premises depended for water on
one near the eastern limits of the capital called
Madame Moncreaux s Spring.
Dirty canals flowed down the centre of the unpaved
streets and the ubiquitous corbeau was the only real
sanitation worker in the city, scavenging the piles of
refuse which collected in the roadway. It was not an
uncommon sight for an overhead window to open
suddenly and a tureen of dirty water to come cas-
cading out onto the pedestrians below.
In the countryside, things were worse, especially
in the barracks of sugar estates, where no toilet facil-
ities existed for the droves of Indian labourers who
had begun arriving in the colony in 1845. Water was
most often taken from a well or a pond which was
probably contaminated by faecal matter.
In early September, the first cholera deaths were
recorded in Port-of-Spain. These were treated with
some minor concern, but did not attract enough
attention to warrant any major action on the part
of the authorities. By the time it became apparent
that the level of infection in the city was much worse
than previously thought, the Colonial Government
did not have time to react since by September 22,
the number of deaths had risen to 140 and by the
end of the month 200 were dead. Cholera did not
discriminate according to colour, class or wealth and
struck down rich and poor, black and white alike.
An emergency ordinance was proclaimed and troops
from the West India Regiment (stationed at St James
Barracks) were called out to assist in keeping the
peace and manning soup kitchens for the destitute.
This latter measure became necessary since the pop-
ulation of the city was so ravaged, scarcely a home
was untouched and many hungry people roamed the
All productivity ground to a halt and the usually
throbbing mercantile life of the town was eerily
There was as yet no proper hospital in Port-of-
Spain, since this institution would not be founded
until 1858. All medical aid for the afflicted had to
come from the few physicians then resident in the
city and the resident military surgeon at the barracks.
In a last-ditch and rather feckless attempt to stem
the tide, the government issued bottles of remedies
which had little or no medical credence, being simply
infusions of ammonia, peppermint and rhubarb.
Next week, we will pay closer attention to the
actual impact of the epidemic and a solemn relic of
its ravages still to be seen.
LONG CIRCULAR MALL 622-8245
NEW FALL / WINTER ARRIVALS 2014
A SELECTION OF WINTER
COATS, GOOSE DOWN,
SCARVES AND GLOVES
FOR GENTS, LADIES
What is the relationship
between the Creator, His
creation and the five ele-
ments? Bhagawan crisply
explains to us today.
The base for making a pot is clay. For making
a pot, the potter is the cause and the pot is the
effect. The pot may break, but the clay remains
as it is. Out of a permanent substance, clay,
the potter makes a pot. The fate of the pot
does not affect the potter. The clay in the pot
too has no impact on the potter. Extending the
analogy, God is the changeless Creator, who
creates innumerable objects in creation, which
are subject to change in name and form. A pot
cannot be made without the potter and the
clay; both are necessary. Similarly the Creator
is the instrumental cause of creation (Nimitta
Karana). The human body may perish, like the
pots, but the Creator and the Elements used
for creation are imperishable. The human
beings, during their lifetime, have a choice - to
put their body to good use or bad use.
We are powerless before Time but Time's
Creator and Director can be won and attained
by the wise use of Time. -
The Sri Sathya baba Org. of T&T
Green Consciousness - Save the Planet.
The Zoroastrian faith enjoins the caring of the
physical world not merely to seek spiritual sal-
vation. Human beings, as the purposeful cre-
ation of God, are seen as the natural motivators
or overseers of the Seven Creations.
Port-of-Spain, seen here in the 1880s,
was a very compact town with little
sanitation, which served to exacerbate
the cholera epidemic of 1854.
The grave at Lapeyrouse Cemetery of Henry Scott,
one of the early victims of the epidemic.
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