Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 14th 2013 Contents A5
Saturday, September 14, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Tears running down her face, clad
in a large T-shirt and capris, feet bare
and covered in mud, Mohani Singh,
who has lived in Diego Martin for the
past 13 years, watched as water
poured out of her house.
The water, which had taken two
hours to pool in her home, flowed slug-
gishly out of a hole a neighbour had
hammered through the living-room
wall of her two-bedroom house.
Like many homes off St Lucien Road
in Diego Martin, Singh s home was
ravaged by floodwaters and debris after
two hours of rain caused the Diego
Martin River to burst its banks.
While the ODPM had issued a
release saying the road to Macqueripe
in Chaguaramas was impassable, Glen-
coe and Carenage remained flood-free.
The rainfall, accompanied by thunder
so loud it made houses vibrate, and
day-bright flashes of lightning, began
shortly after 11 pm in western Trinidad
and continued until shortly after 3 am.
In the yards of residents whose homes
bordered the highway, water settled
about four feet high, partially covering
cars. Homeowners climbed onto ledges
and walls to escape the water in their
Singh said: "In 2006 my place flood
out and nobody ever helped me fix
it...I don t want to live here again."
She is the neighbour of Johan Lewis,
who returned to his Jean Avenue home
at around 1 am yesterday to meet his
television set, couch, bed and clothing
floating in water that reached halfway
up his five-foot-nine-inch frame.
The tidemark left by the receding
water showed that at one point it
reached his waist.
The rain left behind a highway filled
with dirty river water, debris and in
some places thick layers of mud.
Further up the street, Anne Salandy
swept water from the home she shares
with four family members, including
a three-month-old grandson.
In communities around Diego Mar-
tin, people experienced similar situ-
ations as water rushed through streets,
pushing against walls until they col-
lapsed. The situation was not very dif-
ferent from 13 months ago when power
lines and cables were pulled down,
roads were badly damaged and one
man died, swept away by a landslide.
As early as midnight, Diego Martin
Central MP Amery Browne was touring
the area, making calls to fast-track
A group of fire officers rescued a
family trapped in their home on Jean
By shortly after 3 am, perhaps half
an hour after the rainfall lessened, Jus-
tice Minister Emmanuel George, who
lives in Diego Martin, and regional cor-
poration chairman Anthony Sammy
were checking in with teams dispatched
by the Office of Disaster Preparedness
and Management at affected areas near
Simon Trace in Bagatelle.
George and Sammy visited 11 affect-
ed areas yesterday.
In an interview, Sammy said clean-
up efforts would take approximately
two days. He said he had asked for
help for people who had lost food and
"We have made contact with the
Ministry of Social Development and
they will send their people and we are
trying to get in contact with Self Help
Five people had been sent to a tem-
porary disaster shelter at the Diamond
Vale Community Centre.
Asked why, a year after Diego Martin
was devastated by floods in 2012, peo-
ple seemed to be facing the same
issues, Sammy said it was a result of
"Some people may say it s excuses
and so on, but we could have the best
drains in the world and so on, but
when you have climate change that is
taking place all over the world, and
you have that kind of downpour that
we experienced this morning, you are
going to have a measure of flooding."
Sammy said up to two months ago
95 per cent of underground drains
under the corporation s purview was
cleaned and these drains were cleaned
every three and a half months.
(See Page A6)
Some 570 people from various
agencies were mobilised to assist
with the aftermath of yesterday s
flooding in Diego Martin.
Local Government Minister Suru-
jrattan Rambachan spoke with the
media during the lunch break at yes-
terday s budget debate in Parlia-
Giving a breakdown, Rambachan
said: "We had mobilised 220 from
Cepep, 50 people from URP, mem-
bers of the Red Cross and 200 work-
ers from the Diego Martin Regional
"Apart from that there were 36
pieces of equipment mobilised by
ten this morning."
He said these included dump
trucks, vacuum cleaners used in
houses, water trucks and several
After two hours of intense rainfall,
streets and homes were heavily
flooded, Rambachan said.
Apart from himself touring the
area and speaking to affected res-
idents, Rambachan said Ganga
Singh, Minister of the Environment
and Water Resources, Justice Min-
ister Emmanuel George and National
Security Minister Gary Griffith were
also on the spot.
"Our first task at this moment is
to bring back a sense of normalcy
to people s lives as quickly as pos-
sible," he said.
"The engineering battalion from
the Defence Force has also been
deployed by the national security
minister in terms of both equipment
He said damage assessment was
still ongoing and was being done by
the Red Cross and the Ministry of
the People and Social Development.
Displaced families can find tempo-
rary relief at the Diego Martin Com-
munity Centre which Rambachan
said was organised from 7 am yes-
"It was opened much earlier, but
people started coming to that centre
at around that time. But I can t as
yet give exact numbers," Rambachan
Health and the maintenance of
proper hygiene were also a concern,
as the downpour also resulted in
flooded cesspits. Rambachan said
three cesspool emptiers from three
different regional corporations were
being used to empty cesspits as
quickly as possible.
"We are very concerned about the
hygiene aspects and the health
aspects and we re moving very expe-
ditiously to deal with that," he said.
"A command centre has also been
set up and manned under the Diego
Martin Regional Corporation s chair-
man, Mr Anthony Sammy, and we
had our first meeting this morning."
Opposition Leader Dr
Keith Rowley yesterday
questioned whether the
costly flooding in Diego
Martin could have been
Rowley, speaking with
reporters during the tea
break at Parliament yester-
day, said if the relevant
regional corporation was
actually doing all the work
it said it was, the level of
flooding would have been
"You getting reports that
it is being done and you
hear it is being done, but
when you go there it is not
so, so that contributes to
the hardship," he said.
He said both he and
Diego Martin Central MP
Dr Amery Browne pleaded
with the regional corpora-
tion to have more work
done on the drains and
waterways during the dry
season but to no avail.
"You need to have clear
watercourses and clear
drains. I myself raised this
issue last week or earlier
about the mouth of the
river in Point Cumana...
Those things just exacer-
bate the situation," Rowley
"Diego Martin is so
heavily populated that
every single drain matters,
so you need to keep them
He said the overnight
floods in Diego Martin
Central have done more
damage than similar floods
"That s what I have
heard," he said.
While Rowley, MP for
Diego Martin West, said he
has not yet had a chance
to visit the hardest-hit
areas, he got up-to-date
reports and was informed
that Diego Martin Central
was badly affected by the
two hours of early-morning
"I have no first-hand
information, I have
reports," he said.
"A lot of stuff has come
down," he said.
He said while the Diego
Martin Regional Corpora-
tion might say everything
was being handled well, he
was not quick to believe
A distressed Russell Corbie stands in his living room waist-high in flood waters at his Hillaire Street, Diego Martin home
early yesterday. PHOTO: COURTESY DEREK GOODING
As rains lash west Trinidad...
Floods take heavy
toll on Diego Martin
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