WORKS and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan has described a fire at a flood pump station in Bamboo as a deliberate act of sabotage meant to destabilise a country and a system.
“What we are seeing here today is a planned sabotage to ensure that this area is flooded out during the rainy season.”
He was speaking on Sunday during a media tour of the Bamboo No1 pump site at Caroni Embankment Road, Bamboo Settlement.
Last week Sunday at 10.30 pm, a group of men fired shots at the site watchman and after he fled, they set fire to the station.
Sinanan said that fortunately, the watchman alerted nearby villagers and they returned with him about 15 minutes later and helped put out the fire and minimise the damage.
“Unfortunately what we are witnessing here gives the impression that there are some people who are very comfortable with the level of flooding that we are having,” Sinanan said, adding the ministry has never encountered this level of sabotage, “so planned and well executed and in such a blatant manner.”
He said the ministry, over the last couple of years, had started some major projects in about 13 sites, including an upgrade to all pumps and flood gates in Trinidad. He reported that work at the Bamboo site included upgrading the road and the building and repairing pumps, and pointed to some “shiny new parts” that were recently installed.
“Just as we're about to complete the upgrade, someone came and decided, ‘No, it must not happen.’ We must keep this area under water.”
He explained the site had been increased from about 50 per cent to about 90 per cent capacity and was pumping 20,000 gallons per minute. After the attack, two temporary pumps were set up but they can only pump at 8,000 gallons per minute.
NOT GOOD NEWS
The minister said the saboteurs targeted two of the three pumps that were working, threw three Molotov cocktails (crude, home-made bombs using bottles filled with kerosene) under them and some outside to burn the plastic lines that pull water to the pumps.
He noted it is the peak of the rainy season and major downpours are expected. He said a lot of water comes through the area, including from Mt Lambert and San Juan, and down into the Caroni River.
He said he did not know how Bamboo residents sleep at night, because it was the rainy season and the area has a bowl-shaped landscape.
“Once the rain falls you have to pump it out. Or else you might just go to bed and then get up the next morning and realise that everything you own is floating. So it is very unfortunate.”
He added that he has previously seen water six feet high in the area and that was when the pumps were working. Sinanan said the cost of repairing the pumps was estimated between $300,000 and $500,000, but the ministry does not have a time frame as yet. He stressed the pumps are very expensive and there is a long lead time to get parts that could be exacerbated by the pandemic.
He reported that one of the two damaged pumps was able to be salvaged and the ministry was planning to get it back up in a month’s time “at significant cost to taxpayers.” The second pump may have to be condemned. Sinanan said the site was being upgraded with electricity and cameras.
Asked if the act was politically motivated, Sinanan said he could not say and although someone commented to him that it was “flood politics,” he would not go down that road. He did question who would stand to benefit from such an act that caused both expense for the State and trauma for residents.
The minister’s claim of sabotage echoed those by the Prime Minister at a PNM post-budget meet-up last week. Before addressing the arson, Dr Rowley spoke of two incidents of sabotage: the opening of the Brian Lara Stadium in Tarouba when “the UNC” blocked the highway and some stuffed clothes in the sewers to flood the boxes in the stadium; and people flushing oranges, grapefruit and jerseys into the toilets of the new ferry “to be able to say, ‘The boat eh good.’”
“Whoever it is, they haven’t stopped. Try and figure out why anybody would want to go and light four fires in Bamboo No1 to burn out the pumps that extract water from Bamboo No1,” Rowley said.
“And all you have to ask yourself (is), who stands to benefit if Bamboo No1 is flooded? It has to be the people who make a specialty of flood politics.”
Rowley also revealed that someone went into the repair shop at Piarco Airport, opened a panel on a plane, cut the wires and closed back the panel.
“Had that aircraft gone up in the air, you know what would have been the consequences? Because there are people in this country who find that the normal dose of bad news is not enough. And when it’s not enough they will create some for you.”
This story has been adjusted to include additional details. See original post below.
WORKS and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan has described the arson attack on a pump station in Bamboo as an act of sabotage meant to destabilise a system. "What we are seeing here today is planned sabotage to ensure that this area is flooded out during the rainy season."
He was speaking Sunday during a media tour of the Bamboo #1 Pump Site at the Caroni Embankment Road, Bamboo Settlement. Last week Sunday at 10.30 pm a group of men fired shots at the site watchman and then set fire to the station. Sinanan said fortunately the watchman alerted the nearby villagers and they returned with him and assisted in putting out the fire.
"Unfortunately what we are witnessing here (with the arson attack) gives the impression that there are some people who are very comfortable with the level of flooding that we are having." He added: "What you see here happening today is a sabotage. Something that was planned and well-executed."
Asked whether the act was politically motivated Sinanan said he could not say that though someone commented to him that it was "flood politics." He did question who would stand to gain from such an act.
He said the pump site in question was not at 100 per cent but it had been increased from about 50 per cent capacity to about 90 per cent capacity and pumping 20,000 gallons per minute. Following the attack, two temporary pumps were set up but Sinanan reported that it was pumping 8,000 gallons per minute.
"And even with that 20,000 gallons we still had challenges. So no matter what we try to put in place will be at a disadvantage in this area in the rainy season." He explained the saboteurs targeted the two of the three working pumps that were working, placed molotov cocktails under the pumps and burned the intake.
"And they were quite prepared to ensure that 100 per cent of the pumping was down." He added: "Somebody or some element decided that flooding must be a part of our lives." He explained with the sabotage thousands of citizens in the Bamboo #1 community were at increased risk of flooding.