FARIS AL-RAWI, Minister of Rural Development and Local Government, was very pleased with how workers and members of the public had all come together to help with preparations such as sandbags ahead of the storm that had threatened the country on Tuesday evening but which passed by relatively harmlessly, addressing Thursday's post-Cabinet briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's. However he warned everyone to stay alert to new threats, citing two weather systems off the west coast of Africa, a point reiterated by other ministers.
He later highlighted to Newsday the co-ordinated active engagement of the storm, as demonstrated by the population's uptake of about 50,000 sandbags, plus preparations since early this year by his ministry and the Ministry of Works and Transport. In his address, Al-Rawi hailed opposition councillors for ignoring calls by party's colleagues to create confusion as the storm had loomed.
"There was one notable improvement nationally – we got a lot less fake news. So I want to thank the population for that."
He thanked the 712 municipal police who had been deployed nationwide, put on alert alongside all 14 municipal corporations, the Disaster Management Unit and CEPEP.
"We have observed two weather systems off the coast of Africa. The Met Office will speak to the actual formation of those things.
"The short position is that we expect more rainfall. With more rainfall we are actively watching the height and volume of rivers." His focus will be to ensure roadways and river ways were passable.
"The simple point to people in TT is to keep the attention. There is more rain. We are in the rainy season and the ITCZ (inter tropical convergence zone) exists."
Al-Rawi began to detail the reports received from each corporation. These Couva-Tabaquite-Talparo (five reports), Diego Martin (three reports) and Tunapuna-Piarco (one report). The corporation at Point Fortin had seen minor flash flooding and the San Fernando corporation staff had collected cots for their emergency shelters.
Damage at San Juan Laventille Regional Corporation was four fallen trees and one blown off roof, while the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation had reported four landslides.
Al-Rawi said 56,000 sandbags had been delivered to the public via his ministry and all regional corporations, plus a second tranche of 19,000 sandbags, saying the sandbag uptake showed how seriously the population took the storm threat.
Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan said the soil in some areas in north Trinidad was "very saturated." He said, "We expect to see some more landslips in that area." Sinanan said TT was now at the start of the annual hurricane season. Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales said there was no chance of cyclones from the new weather systems, but said thunderstorms could occur over TT on Friday. He said TT has the potential for street-flooding and flash-flooding.
Communication Minister Symon de Nobriga advised, "This is hurricane season. Continue to plan, prepare and communicate."
Finance Minister Colm Imbert viewed the efforts as "a blueprint for the future." Al-Rawi hailed Imbert's role as acting prime minister during the storm threat, in the absence of Prime Minister Dr Rowley whom Al-Rawi also praised as "a hands-on guy." Imbert said the TT Met Office was supplied by data from other met offices and the National Hurricane Centre in Florida. "I think we were spared. The storm could have turned southwards and caused quite a lot of damage. I'm really glad it didn't. But I'm also extremely pleased at the preparations we made in the event that the storm had turned southwards, had strengthened, developed into a tropical storm. It could have caused a lot of damage. It didn't. We were fortunate."