JANELLE DE SOUZA
National Security Minister Stuart Young is urging the population to stay at home and off the roads unless there is an emergency.
Speaking at a press conference at the ministry on Abercromby Street, Port of Spain, this morning, Young said on his helicopter tour of affected areas he noticed many vehicles A trying to drive through flood waters, as well as long lines of traffic with people trying to turn in the same lane and driving in the wrong direction.
He said when vehicles get stuck or in the water or get into an accident, resources would have to be diverted from rescuing those stranded in floods to assist, in addition to putting first-responders and law-enforcement officers at further risk.
He warned drivers that parts of the Manzanilla/Mayaro Road and many back roads were submerged. In addition, the Uriah Butler Highway, between the Caroni Bridge and Monroe Road, was closed, and police would make decisions with respect to traffic management and road closures.
“What we are asking people is to stay calm, continue to work with the law enforcement authorities…Persons who do not need to travel from your homes: please stay in your homes.”
Young said the constant rain on Thursday and Friday caused “some of the worst flooding” TT had seen, with Greenvale Park, La Horquetta; St Helena; Kelly Village, Aripo; and Sangre Grande being the most affected. He said some homes were under water with people either trapped inside or on their roofs, while others were trapped in their cars in the water.
He said on last night, marine vessels were brought to the Greenvale area and between then and 7 am, first responders rescued between 200 and 300 people who were stranded.
First responders on the ground included members of the Defence Force, Coast Guard, Fire Services, Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM), and the Strategic Services Agency.
He said the damage was still being assessed. Resources to shelters and rescue services started to be deployed on Friday night in emergency cases.
On reports of what was happening, he commented: “One of the phenomena that takes place, and is very disconcerting and even upsetting, during the course of these types of operations, is you have persons pushing out, once again, distorted information.
And what that does, especially in these types of operations, is we have to divert resources, because we can’t take the chance, unless we determine that everything that is being put before us is either real or unreal.”
He mentioned the case of one Jizzelle Baldwin who sent out a cry for help on Facebook. The post said she was diabetic and had been trapped in her car with four children for 14 hours.
She said she had no medication, was feeling unwell and gave her contact number and said she had called the police, Fire Services and the ODPM but had not yet got help.
He said he and officer in charge of the ODPM Capt (Retired) Neville Wint tried to verify the report by flying over Madras Road, where she claimed to be. They also had the number provided called several times – to no avail.
Young also mentioned rumours of looting in Sangre Grande, but said as of 7 am, Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith said he had had no reports of this from police officers. He added that although there was no official report, that did not mean it did not happen, but either way, additional patrols and law enforcement officers were deployed in the affected areas.
Young stressed that the population should remain vigilant, as more rain was expected through to Monday.
To make things worse, the ground was already saturated and when the tide rises water would not be able to run off into the sea. Also, as the water runs off from higher areas it would cause more flooding in low-lying areas. Therefore, people should expect more flooding.
He noted that, in affected areas, shelters had been set up in schools and community centres that could provide shelter services. The Ministry of Health was also trying to get nurses and doctors there to help.
A shelter drive would also be set up for those who wish to donate. He asked for people to drop off items such as bottled water, non-perishable food, sheets and blankets, towels, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, detergent, hygiene products, mops, brooms, gloves, mattresses, etc at their nearest municipal corporations for the ODPM to collect and distribute.
He asked people to stay out of the flood waters, as it was a health issue, since it could contain sewage and reptiles.
He also said electricity had to be disconnected in some affected areas for safety reasons as there were reports of one person in Arima being shocked, medically examined and discharged.