Heroes rescue Greenvale families

Good Samaritans carry residents to safety in a boat at Greenvale Park, La Horquetta yesterday. PHOTO BY LINCOLN HOLDER
Good Samaritans carry residents to safety in a boat at Greenvale Park, La Horquetta yesterday. PHOTO BY LINCOLN HOLDER

At around 2 am yesterday, Selwyn Carrington tied a garden hose to a lamppost in Greenvale, La Horquetta, and held onto it as he swam to a nearby savannah to rescue a man who was holding his infant daughter, stranded in rain and flood water.

About 4 am, PC Thaddeus Caraballo was swimming toward a couple holding onto each other and an electricity pole as he repeatedly tried to bring them to safety.

As the sun rose, shedding first light on what looked like houses floating in a murky lake, Akeil Gabriel, a resident of Talparo who was unable to get home on Friday, and decided to help where he could, was forcing his way through water currents to climb onto a roof to rescue a shivering and frightened mewling dog, whose owners had evacuated their home.

These are the stories emerging from Greenvale, even as residents gaze at overcast skies in trepidation over more approaching rain.

The visible evidence of these rescues was present yesterday in the community, whose infrastructure was wrecked by rampaging flood waters. But it was also a community brought together by the disaster, which produced heroes who came to the rescue of their neighbours when no one else was around.

When the water was too high for members of the TT Defence Force, Coast Guard and other first-responders to access the area, residents took care of each other.

On one street, a roof was torn apart to rescue a family from drowning in their own home. Windows were smashed, doors broken off hinges, not just by the flood, but by people helping each other escape.

When Newsday visited the area, police had stopped letting vehicles drive along the road into the community, instead concerned family, friends and the curious walked the seven minutes to get there.

At the entrance a group of men stood near a small pirogue, having brought people out of their homes to safety. They offered to take the Newsday team as they made another circle, pulling the boat, sometimes swimming alongside it when the water got too deep, all the while shouting for women and children who needed help.

The men – Derron Joe-Howard, Nathaniel De Roche, Carrington, Jervin Patel, Anil Boodan, Avinash Deonarine and Gabriel – climbed onto rooftops, removing frightened dogs and other pets, joking with each other, teasing each other about leg cramps and recalling that they had not eaten since the day before, trading stories, remembering that their own homes were damaged, materials lost – but trudging through the muddy brown water, amid the threat of snakes and caimans and whatever other creatures lay beneath the surface.

In an interview, PC Caraballo recalled looking out for first-responders on Friday night and realising help might be delayed. The Housing Development Corporation (HDC) pumps in the area worked at first – but then they too were submerged.

"There were people panicking a lot. Two men were drowning and I swam to save both of them, and they both were pushing me down into the water. There was a couple like Jack and Rose from Titanic, holding onto an electricity pole, and the water was halfway up the pole. I was about 200 metres away and I swam to them three times, but they were afraid to come with me. During everything, during the panicking and everything, I was trying to reassure them that it would be okay. The current was pushing extremely hard, so it was difficult to manoeuvre – but if the people remained where they were they would have died." Caraballo said.

Before the flood, Caraballo recalled, there was a rift in the community between residents of the single-family units and those who live in the multi-level apartment buildings, though he did not say what caused it.

Yesterday, that rift had closed.

"It made me feel so good, and made me feel there was hope for TT. That was so heart-warming, to see us come together. It was very reassuring for me."

Asked if he would leave to head to safety Caraballo, who lost all of his furniture, electronics and appliances, said no.

"I'm not leaving. I will stay as long as possible to ensure the last person leaves from here."


"Heroes rescue Greenvale families"

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