All hands on deck – Government calls on public servants to help with flood recovery

A driver makes his way past a landslide on Pointe-a-Pierre Road, San Fernando after constant rainfall on Sunday. - AYANNA KINSALE
A driver makes his way past a landslide on Pointe-a-Pierre Road, San Fernando after constant rainfall on Sunday. - AYANNA KINSALE

AMIDST orange-level riverine and flood alerts, the government says public servants, once able, are to return to work to avoid any further unnecessary loss of productivity.

Many entire communities are without water, owing to clogged water treatment facilities, while others are without electricity, primarily because of fallen power lines.

All schools have been closed on Monday.

Faris Al-Rawi, Minister of Rural Development and Local Government, said clean-up operations will follow immediately after flooding subsides, while everyday government services must continue, requiring a full workforce.

Al-Rawi, along with Minister of Communications Symon de Nobriga, Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales and Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan, held a media conference on Sunday evening, during which they addressed the mass reports of flooding, damaged and collapsed roads, fallen trees and other emergencies, causing safety and mobility issues around the country after three successive days of heavy rain.

The TT Meteorological Service had at that point issued separate orange-level riverine and flood alerts. The latest alerts are in effect until 6 pm on Monday.

Poor weather hasn't yet hampered air travel, however, with the Airports Authority announcing that operations will continue as normal on Monday.

At Sunday's news conference, Al-Rawi sought to reassure the public about the ability of the State to respond adequately to the vast number of reports.

"The resourcing was done prior to these events," Al-Rawi said.

These resources, he said, were budgeted for and obtained by his ministry's 14 Disaster Management Units (DMU).

"We catered to these things during the preparation for the budget. We purchased, we stocked. I personally visited a number of the Disaster Management Unit (DMU) co-ordination points."

He said sandbags, mattresses, dinghies and other items have been provided for relief in Tunapuna, for example.

A vast number of state agencies and personnel have been deployed throughout the weekend, he said, to deal with emergency situations, like the collapse of homes and relocation of people to shelters, numbering over 30, so far.

"What we do is we cluster our assets. So WASA's assets, T&TEC's assets, (TT Defence Force) Engineering Battalion, municipal police, the regional corporation, the Ministry of Works and Transport and the volunteers (are all working together)," he said, adding that the Ministry of Social Development is available to provide various forms of relief.

Al-Rawi relayed the vast number of reported incidents of landslides and street flooding issued earlier by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM), as well as the rivers which have overflowed or threatened to overflow.

As at the time of the media conference, there were some 61 significant floods reported, 39 of which had started to subside.

A further 106 landslips/landslides have occurred, 41 of which Al-Rawi said have been "attended to," and 31 fallen trees. He said 28 were cleared.

At 8.45 am, the Caroni River at its El Carmen River station was at full capacity, accounting for significant flooding in and around Valsayn.

The ODPM reported three landslides and one fallen tree in the North West region, causing the collapse of two homes in Laventille.

A tree, it said, fell before the walkover to Hilton Trinidad on the Lady Young Road, Morvant, so the the road  had been closed since Saturday afternoon.

Sinanan said the ministry is experiencing major challenges there.

"The road was closed (yesterday) and cleared last night but today a lot more landslips (occurred) and a lot of trees and electricity lines came down," he said.

Sinanan encouraged the public to heed the notices, saying some had ignored instructions and driven beyond the barrier, putting themselves at risk.

There were four reports of significant flooding in St Helena. Some residents in the Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation, it said, were evacuated.

Newsday also received reports that residents were evacuated from Realspring, Valsayn on Sunday evening and the Community Emergency Response Team evacuated residents from La Paille Gardens, Caroni, later that night.

In South Central region there were six reports of landslides, one collapsed road and six reports of flooding.

There were three landslides between the Brasso Police Station and Martha Lane, along the Caparo Valley Brasso Road, resulting in the road being restricted to single-lane traffic.

It also reported a collapsed road at La Vega Village, Gran Couva, and extensive flooding was reported in Cunupia and environs.

In the South West region, flooding was reported in parts of Penal and La Romain.

The Eastern region recorded 14 reports of fallen trees and flooding in several parts of Biche, Mayaro and surrounding communities.

There were no reports of incidents in Tobago at the time of the ODPM’s release.

In an update at 5.30 pm on Sunday, the ODPM said the Caparo River was at 76 per cent capacity, Caroni, El Carmen was at 100 per cent capacity, Caroni Bamboo number three was at 86 per cent capacity, North Oropouche was at 81 per cent capacity and South Oropouche was at 80 per cent capacity.

The Ministry of Works and Transport also announced the closure of four roads in a statement late Sunday. They were: the Southern Main Road, near Nathaniel Crichlow Drive (near UTT Valsayn Campus) to Caroni Roundabout, North Coast Road, 18km mark, nearZorro Road, Brasso Caparo Station Road, near the 3.2km mark, Gran Couva and Couva Road, near the 12.5km mark, Gran Couva.

At the media conference, Al-Rawi used the opportunity to highlight the human cause of flooding, saying, "I'd also like to remind that when people wilfully build and intrude on waterways and water courses or they think it's okay to throw a fridge into a waterway, these are things that (have) man-made consequence, and whilst we engage in cyclical and habitual clean-up exercises, there has to be a degree (of accountability)."

With reporting by Melissa Doughty


"All hands on deck – Government calls on public servants to help with flood recovery"

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