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Sunday 26 May 2019
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Flood horrors

Villages in south Trinidad say they are forgotten

Pigs swim in floodwaters trying to find dry ground in Debe yesterday. PHOTOS BY ANSEL JEBODH
Pigs swim in floodwaters trying to find dry ground in Debe yesterday. PHOTOS BY ANSEL JEBODH

What is being described as chapters from a book of horror stories, traumatised residents of the remote villages of Debe, Penal, Woodland and Barrackpore recalled been trapped inside their houses surrounded by floodwaters for the past three days after heavy rainfall.

The residents believe they have been forgotten by those in authority.

Many said yesterday that within the past three days all they could have done was pray and ask God to spare their lives as floodwaters entered their houses. They were forced to keep moving to higher ground. Floodwaters covered their beds and left their furniture floating.

In a village along Suchit Trace, Penal, residents who were able to escape from their houses before the waters rose assembled a tent a short distance at a dry area location.

These residents, among them children, have been sleeping on benches and mattresses under the tent since Thursday.

Yesterday, tractors and trucks from the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation entered villages as some families were evacuated. The team was later joined by the Regiment and firemen. Sunday Newsday learnt that a shelter has now been set up at Quinam Road to accommodate the affected residents.

“We were able to get out the house as the waters rose and some of us gathered clothes and food-stuff and took it into the road. From there, we set up a tent near the road hoping the flood would not reach there. We have been cooking under this tent and sleeping here for the past three days. No one has stopped to help us,” said emotional grandmother, Fareeda Moorally.

“This is the fourth time we have been affected. Last time we didn’t get no help and now is the same,” she said.

At San Francique, Pluck Road, father of two, Devanand Narine said it was heartbreaking to know that after three days of been trapped he is now receiving help. “My children asked me daddy will anyone come rescue us. I didn’t know what to tell them. For the past three days, we had to help out each other. I have a boat and I was able to use it to get out of the house.”

Narine told Sunday Newsday that there was an old woman who suffered a stroke and had to be rescued.

Mala Ramnath Polo steps out of a flooded car after a failed attempt to drive through floodwaters in Woodland yesterday.

“The water had almost covered her. We all had to get together and break the door down to get her out with no help from anyone.”

The tearful father said he hopes that everyone is accounted for. “There are areas far off the main road and there are families there with children, I really hope no one lost their life. Every single area needs to be checked. It really hurts me to see how these villagers were treated.”

Residents said the floodwaters remained stagnant for the last three days.

Along Woodland Main Road, Dianne Alibocas and her husband, Haniff, have been sleeping on the floor of their garage for the past three days. “It is the only dry spot in our home now. Our entire house is now filled with over three feet of water.”

Alibocas said she and many residents survived on the little food and water they were able to salvage. “We have really been forgotten.”

At another location, Mala Latchman, who is six months pregnant, was sleeping in a maxi. Latchman, her children and husband have been there, since Thursday. “It is very uncomfortable,” she said.

She told Sunday Newsday other villagers brought bread for them to eat yesterday morning. “We bought a case of water yesterday. The food we have is not really enough to satisfy all of us. But we are making it do.”

At Ramcharan Trace in Penal, Gahansham Ganesh, 71, squeezed water from his clothes. “The water in my farm is almost to my chest. In these few days, I have been walking through the water trying to save my animals.”

Ganesh said he managed to save several of his cattle but two calves drowned.

Some residents walking through floodwaters said they decided "to take a chance to leave their homes".

“We have been here for three days like sitting ducks. We lost most of over food and drinks. And we were waiting and hoping someone will come with food or water for us. But no one has since showed up.” Leslie Ramnath, 45, said as she held her two sisters hands moving through the waters.

Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan visited the affected areas yesterday.

He told reporters the flooding was as a result of abnormal rainfall in the low-lying areas. “Most of the rivers in this area would have been dredged but it’s just the new norm with the rain now and we have to now look in terms of doing a lot more in terms of raising the banks of the rivers,” the minister said.

Sinanan said the country had reached "a new norm" with the weather pattern with a lot more rainfall in the wet season.

He said plans are on the way to raise the banks of the main watercourses. This, he said, would contain the water to try to minimise the flooding. “But its almost impossible to stop the flooding in these low-lying areas. This is almost like a basin where the water in the past would have been allowed to breach.”

Penal/Debe Regional Corporation chairman Dr Allan Sammy said this year's flooding was worse than last year.

Trucks are being used to enter areas such as Suchit Trace, Debe Trace, Katwaroo Trace, Matura Development, Woodland and others.

He said many farm animals drowned. Up to yesterday, he said there were 266 reports of flooding in different areas such as Batchyia Village, Satnanie Boodoo Branch Trace in Penal and more.

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