LAUREL V WILLIAMS
THERE was fear and worry in Cedros yesterday as several families waited for what seems to be the inevitable destruction of their homes as raging waters of the mighty Gulf of Paria continue to undermine the land on which the properties stand.
With one house and part of Bamboo Extension Road collapsing on Monday afternoon, inclement weather yesterday churned the sea which battered the cliff on which the houses are perched.
Affected home-owners were last night waiting for their houses to fall into the sea below.
Residents of Bamboo Village believe the sea carved a channel into the nearby bluff over a period of time. Additionally, continuous rainfall over the past month aggravated the situation and a sink-hole formed under the property of Charmion Gunness, 50, and her husband Fazal Mohammed, 55. The three-bedroom concrete structure crumbled into the hole. With the land unstable underfoot, there is a fear the sink-hole could enlarge or others could form, placing five houses in peril.
“WE THOUGHTWAS SOUCOUYANT”
Gunness said that on Monday at about 1.30 pm, family members saw cracks beginning to form on the walls of their house. The cracks began to widen and family members, fearing the worst, began moving household items to a shed in front of the house. By 4 pm, 80 residents got together to help the Gunness clan remove their belongings to the road.
They fled the house at 4.30 pm and minutes later, it crumbled as the land gave way with the house sliding 250 feet down. About 100 feet of road was destroyed and two electricity poles were pulled down. “The villagers did the work, we did not do anything. Everybody came out to help us. We had already called a truck, but the road started to go down too. This is the worst. I cried until I had no more tears to cry again. Everything is gone. I could not bear watching our house crumble,” Gunness said.
She lived in the house with her family which includes husband Fazal, son Kareem, 22, daughter Candice, 27, Candice’s boyfriend Kishan Deolal, 27, and their 18-month-old son Keegan Deolal.
“The last couple of nights we were hearing cracking sounds outside the house. We didn’t the land was cracking up. We thought (it) was soucouyant (a blood-sucking local folklore character) outside on the roof. We came out with torch lights about two in the morning looking for the soucouyant. Right now, I am in shock. My husband used to fish but now he is sickly,” Gunness said.
Neighbour Tishana Joseph, 35, told Newsday that family members were “taking a chance” by being in the house. She lives with her parents, brother and niece.
“We are still packing out things. We always know the sea will take the land, it was a matter of time.
We did know when, but it is happening now. We are taking a chance by being here. I haven’t slept since” Joseph said. UTT student Bradley Neemai, 22, said he was stunned to see his neighbour’s house collapse, “just so.”
“While I was looking at their house going down, the front of our house started to cave in. We had to run and try to secure some of our household items. The shed in front is cracking and I guess over a period of time it would collapse,” Neemai said.
Disaster response officials from several agencies were swift to act and visited on Monday to assess the area and provide support. have been visiting the area. Rural Development and Local Government Minister Kazim Hosein; the area’s MP Edmund Dillon; Chairman of the Siparia Regional Corporation (SRC) Glen Ramadharsingh and councillor Shankar Teelucksingh all visited the area.
SRC Disaster Management Unit officials said that five families, whose houses face the greatest danger of collapsing, are now staying with relatives and are waiting to see what would happen.
A release from the Social Development and Family Services Ministry reminded the public that grant funding is available to people affected by natural and man-made disasters. Services and grants can be accessed from the Ministry’s Social Welfare Division. The ministry has Housing Assistance/Repairs Grants to a maximum of $20,000.
Dillon congratulated the residents for going swiftly to the aid of their stricken neigbours. A team from the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) arrived yesterday and met with the affected residents. Dillon promised to speed up the process saying that the Lake View Housing Development in Point Fortin is the nearest one that could accommodate affected residents. The Cedros Community Centre at Bonasse Village is the designated temporary relief shelter.
NEED TO ASSESS LAND
Hosein told reporters that the families are so close that they did not take up the offer to use the centre. “From the social and housing aspects of things, the MP is putting things in place. I will contact the Ministry of Works to come and look at the disaster. The families will get the relief that they deserve,” Hosein said.
The councillor explained that while visiting Mohammed’s home on Monday afternoon, the cracks were widening, and he told them to evacuate. Moments later the house gave way and he contacted the relevant authorities. Teelucksingh called on the authorities to investigate other coastline communities which may be facing similar disasters caused by the effects of global warming.
He estimated repair works would cost millions of dollars at Bamboo Village. “Icacos is under sea level and that is something the various agencies should look at in terms of informing residents about alternative areas for relocation. It is the same in Fullerton area also. This investigation has to done district by district,” Teelucksingh said
“This is the worst I have seen in my entire life. We saw erosions at Granville when the Atlantic LNG and Point Lisas port were being developed. The erosions were not like this.” Ramadharsingh called on the Coastal Protection Unit which falls under the Works and Infrastructure Ministry to visit the disaster zone and relate the affected residents. Up to last evening, residents remained alert hoping that there would be no further land movements.