After seeing their neighbours’ house collapse and slide down a hill – along with everything inside it – early on Wednesday, people from at least two nearby houses have cleared out their homes as they wait for their houses to fall apart too “at any moment.”
Nardera Ramsaran-Williams told Newsday on Thursday, “We only have a few more things in the gallery. We spend the night in two cars on the roadside. We cannot function properly right now. The land is still moving.”
She, her husband Chester Williams and their two children, 15 and 20, live next to Giles Garcia, 62, and his family at Diamond Road in Claxton Bay. On Wednesday, a landslip destroyed the Garcias' three-bedroom home.
At least three other houses with a total of 14 people are bracing for the worst.
Since early Wednesday, the Williamses have been removing belongings from their home. They were afraid to stay in the house.
By Thursday, they had even removed the front door. There were a few items in bags in the gallery.
The back of their yard caved in, and the water tanks and stands collapsed, as well as several trees.
“We may have to spend another night in the cars. We have nowhere to go. We sent some of the items by relatives,” Ramsaran-Williams said.
She said someone told the family they would be entitled to a temporary relief housing grant for three months from the Government.
“The person said we can find a place to rent and the Government would pay for it. It is better than nothing. After the three months, an evaluation would be done, the man said.
"This house could go down anytime.”
Another neighbour, Marva Fritz, 67, said family and friends also cleared out her house.
“I did not really sleep last night, thinking about the whole incident. It has us so frightened. We cannot stay here any more. My house is cracking, and it is getting worse by the second. It is unsafe to go inside.
“People from this village and the other village (Windsor Park in California) came and gave a hand to try to salvage items. We live in unity here, and if one person cries, all cry.”
Fritz spent the night by her sister Leonie Roberts, 74, Garcia’s mother-in-law, who lives at the front of the same property.
Garcia, his wife Anastasia Morris-Garcia and her two adult children, 30 and 31, also spent the night at Roberts’ cramped two-bedroom house.
“We were like chickens in a chicken coop, everyone in a corner.
"For the past few days, cracks have been appearing in her home too,” Fritz said.
“We need a house. She too would need a house.
"When they (Government) decide to give us houses, we want to choose where we go. I have a three-bedroom house, and I have many things. I do not want a two-bedroom house.”
The affected area is outside the boundary of Coco Road quarry, which is owned by the Estate Management and Business Development Company Ltd (EMBD). Residents believe quarrying caused the landslip. Quarrying stopped after the house collapsed.
Garcia spent most of the day on Thursday sitting on a chair looking at the ruins of his home. Scores of people were trying to salvage household items, and Garcia praised them for their kind gesture.
However, he knocked those in authority, saying he was dissatisfied with their response.
“From yesterday to now, no one in authority came to give residents assistance, not even to give a word of comfort. Only the councillor (Gangaram Gopaul) came...Family, neighbours and friends are helping. Where are the people in authority who can help?"
He said he was "very dissatisfied” he is happy to be alive.
“To start all over again at 62 is not a nice thing. But so be it. I know there is someone greater than me that can assist. ”
Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee later visited and spoke with Garcia and other affected residents.
Garcia said he hoped to get his “just due” from the authorities and called on them to help before the problem worsens.
“Do not help me alone. Do something for the people who have not lost as much as me. Put things in place for them too.
"I hope they will compensate me. If I got two hours of sleep last night, I got plenty."
He said there are no evacuation plans in place.
“If we have to evacuate here and we are in haste, the road is bad. God forbid something bad happens to the road and we have to evacuate. What is our position? People would lose their lives.”
The nearby property of Kamla and Anstey Harripersad is also affected. The couple lives with their children, 18 and 25. A few feet behind the house, the land caved in.
“I am praying for rain not to fall. I do not want to think about what could happen here. This (two-storey concrete house) is our blood, sweat and tears,” Kamla said.
Speaking with reporters at the site, Lee said when he heard about the disaster on Wednesday, he asked Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Minister Clarence Rambharat to put a stop to the quarrying.
Lee called for an investigation into the incident and compensation for thosee affected.
“He (Rambharat) says he was investigating it. Investigating is one thing, but I have asked him to provide relief to all the families in the area.”
The MP said the EMBD had leased the sandpit to a private contractor. He also called on the contractor to provide relief.
Officials from the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation, including the councillor, returned to the area on Thursday.
Via WhatsApp, Rambharat said the EMBD is investigating.
An official from the Social Development and Family Services said officials are expected to meet the affected residents on Friday to offer rental assistance.