Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 24th 2017 Contents A6 news
guardian.co.tt Saturday, June 24, 2017
Prime Minister Keith Row-
ley didn't bring residents one
assistance grant or even one
hamper when he recently
toured flood-ravaged Southern
areas, Opposition MP Roodal
Moonilal declared yesterday.
"He (PM) just fly past and his
Prado (SUV) wet up people,"
Moonilal said in Parliament yes-
He made the complaint as he
spoke in debate on amendments
to the Motor Vehicle legislation.
Moonilal said proposals for red-
light cameras to penalise speeding
drivers, should be reconsidered
since motorists can get killed or
robbed when stopping at red lights
late at night in T&T.
Focusing on damages follow-
ing the recent passage of Tropical
Storm Bret, Moonilal said, "As of
now, I've not heard of one person
who's gotten an assistance grant
for this from any agency."
Moonilal said if there had been
a proper drainage plans for rivers
and drains "we wouldn't have had
this week's catastrophe."
Moonilal said if Government
raised $2.1b from the proposed
motor vehicle fines, "I suggest 50
per cent of those road and traffic
fines be used to clear drains and fix
roads...(as it is ) we have a $1.3 bil-
lion (Lara) Stadium whose opening
ceremony cost $2.3 million." (See
Opposition Leader Kamla Per-
sad-Bissessar was successful in
obtaining agreement for Parlia-
ment to debate Government's
handling of storm issues as a
definite matter of urgent public
A motion on the issue which she
raised cited Government's "fail-
ure to provide adequate resources
and relief in a timely, effective and
efficient manner to alleviate the
hardship, suffering, anguish and
distress of the population."
House Speaker Bridgid An-
nisette-George agreed to allow
debate on the motion last night.
Persad-Bissessar had said many
areas were affected and Govern-
ment had failed to address issues
amid the devastation.
She said people "were suffer-
ing hardship, unable to provide
food for families; homes in en-
tire areas have been destroyed;
others have been flooded out and
people remain marooned in some
areas without any assistance from
"There is an urgent need to
provide water and basic food
supplies to persons living in these
areas. Families need urgent help
to clean their homes and drain it
of contaminated water. Rivers,
drains and waterways need to be
immediately cleared and cleaned
to provide flood relief."
Persad-Bissessar said: "Men,
women and children who live in
these flooded areas are at risk of
contracting diseases because of
the contaminated water entering
these areas. Tens of thousands of
families are presently suffering---
Bret has transformed the affected
parts of our country into virtual
Even as residents across the
country struggle to recover from
the devastation left behind by
Tropical Storm Bret, there is
now an admittance by various
government agencies that better
coordination and communica-
tion among stakeholders could
have achieved better results.
The admittance came yesterday
during a press conference held by
the Office of Disaster Preparedness
and Management(ODPM) to update
the nation on its progress in assist-
ing some 100,000 affected people
throughout the country.
Acting Permanent Secretary in
the Local Government Ministry,
Samdai Rampersad, said it was clear
that in the aftermath there was the
need for greater information sharing
Asked about reports of help arriv-
ing several hours after distress calls
were made, deputy ODPM CEO
Colonel Dave Williams said given
the vast volume of calls coming in
at the same time it was sometimes
difficult to ascertain needs and ur-
gency of such needs.
"There was also some confusion
at times given the volume of infor-
mation coming in," Williams said as
he appealed for patience.
But he also admitted that coordi-
nation among entities needed to be
strengthened. Asked about meas-
ures to curb people from building
homes along the riverbanks, Wil-
liams said this was a perennial prob-
lem as citizens were aware of the law
but still ignored it.
On the call made by Couva MP
Ramona Ramdial to declare flooded
areas "disaster zones," ODPM Op-
erations and Relief Officer Captain
Neville Wint said for this to be trig-
gered a thorough assessment must
first be conducted.
But this process had not yet been
completed by the various regional
corporations. He said aerial surveil-
lance conducted by the Air Guard
yesterday showed many areas still
Wint said due to the high level
of flood waters, bringing relief to
some affected communities was
often hampered. However, he as-
sured that the T&T Defence Force
was now working round-the-clock
to deliver supplies.
On reports of two impending
weather disturbances heading to-
wards the country, Wint dispelled
this, saying the weather conduc-
tions being experienced currently
were normal for the rainy season.
In giving an assessment of the
damage thus far, Vijay Gangap-
ersad, Chief Technical Officer at
the Social Development Ministry,
said 936 households requested as-
sistance and 100 of them reported
either their homes were damaged
or roofs blown off.
He said primary school students
who lost books and other school
supplies would receive $700, sec-
ondary school students $1,000 and
a $1,000 clothing allowance would
be allocated per person per family.
Gangapersad said assessments
would be made by officers going
into the field. He also said cloth-
ing, household appliances, books
and any other item damaged by
the flood must not be thrown out,
as this was part of the "evidence" in
determining the need for financial
He said so far, 200 assessments
had been completed. Asked about
squatters who lost their homes,
Gangapersad made it clear squat-
ting was illegal and building mate-
rial would not be supplied to rebuild
100,000 need help after Bret's passage---ODPM
No help for flood
The recent opening ceremony
of the Brian Lara Cricket Acad-
emy cost more than the total
profit generated from the event.
Sports Minister Darryl Smith
gave figures for both,replying to
queries in Parliament yesterday.
He said the cost of the opening
ceremony was $2.416m while
the total profit generated from
this was $724,700 for tickets,
including to the stadium's "par-
He said the opening ceremo-
ny's cost included appearance
Processes to issue assistance grants
to storm-affected citizens will be fast-
tracked for completion in three weeks
rather than the normal two month peri-
od,Social Development Minister Cherrie
Ann Crichlow-Cockburn said yesterday.
Crichlow-Cockburn was replying to Op-
position queries in Parliament on the pos-
sibility of expediting processes for issuing
grants to victims of recent tropical storm
Opposition MPs Ramona Ramdial,
Rudranath Indarsingh, Roodal Moonilal, Tim
Gopeesingh, Ganga Singh and Barry Padarath
pressed Government for answers on a vari-
ety of relief and management processes for
affected citizens following Bret's passage.
The Minister said requests have been
received from 1,074 households for grants
so far. While she couldn't say that any have
been issued yet, she said requests in hand
are being worked on.
Crichlow-Cockburn said a Disaster Relief
Operation Centre (DROC) was established on
June 20 to deal with grant requests speedi-
ly. First responders to the storm --- regional
corporations --- would receive requests and
these would be sent to the DROC. Officers
are now in the "field" in all 14 corporations,
"As soon as the information reaches the
DROC, it's sent to officers who immediately
go to the relevant areas to assess them. But
some areas are still under flood water and the
Ministry hasn't been able to do assessments
in those areas," she said.
"The corporations already provided clear-
ance for Ministry intervention in 12 regional
corporations. We began assessments in Diego
Martin, Princes Town, Chaguanas, Pt Fortin,
Penal/Debe, Tunapuna, Piarco, San Juan, San
Fernando, Rio Claro and Sangre Grande.
"Officers are in the field in Arima and Si-
paria from where requests arrived yesterday.
We're also working with the Couva Disaster
Unit to get information."
On whether the Ministry will insist on
citizens providing bills/documents for lost
items, Crichlow-Cockburn said, "We rec-
ognise this is an unusual circumstances. In
some cases, people may have lost everything
"The Ministry will try to do its best where
it's necessary, to waive the requirement (for
documents), in order for people to return to
normalcy as soon as possible," she said.
Community Development Minister Nyan
Gadsby-Dolly said the National Self-Help
Commission has an Emergency Repair/
Reconstruction grant facility to deal with
natural disasters. So far, 140 people have
been visited by Commission officers and
50 applications have been received.
Gadsby-Dolly said, applicants need to have
a deed, lease or letter. If they have been living
on State land for more than 16 years, they
would need to show an affidavit stating that.
On possible waivers for squatters, she re-
plied, "As we go along, we'll decide based on
applications, and need, if there's necessity to
consider waiving the requirements," she said.
Housing Minister Randall Mitchell said
his Ministry has an Emergency Shelter Re-
lief Grant for repairs.
"For accountability, applicants have to at-
tach to applications, supporting documents
---showing they suffered some damage---for
funds to be released," she said.
Works Minister Rohan Sinanan, quizzed on
Caroni River overflow, maintained his Ministry
has had an on-going river clearing and desilt-
ing programme all over T&T in recent months
"...and it will continue"
. ---Gail Alexander
speaks to a
tour of the
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