FAMILIES whose homes were damaged by a "downburst" last Thursday have been told they will receive support from the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services to help them rebuild.
In a statement on Monday, the ministry said it stands ready to assist those affected by the downburst on September 28.
A downburst is a high-speed downward movement of turbulent air in a limited area for a short period, usually associated with intense thunderstorms.
The downburst swept into the Gasparillo area, taking with it the roofs of both large and small homes, uprooting and splitting trees and branches and knocking down power lines.
At the Gasparillo Secondary School, a tree crashed onto a teacher’s car.
Over 40 residents were affected by the phenomenon, which they described as "tornado-like," saying they had never seen anything like it before.
In its statement, the ministry noted the bad weather affected the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo region, namely Couva, Preysal and Gasparillo.
“This weather resulted in severe damage to some homes in those areas and the ministry stands ready to provide the necessary assistance to affected families."
It said as a second responder, it is working closely with its key disaster stakeholders, including the first responders – the ODPM, as well as the Ministry of Rural Development and local government Disaster Management Units (DMUs) to assess reported cases, so that help can be offered.
The ministry said it understood a total of eight families had been reported as being affected.
Gasparillo/Bonne Aventure councillor Ravi Pooran Maharaj, who lives in the affected area, told Newsday 11 homes were damaged.
Maharaj also said in the aftermath of the unusual weather, over 40 residents were left traumatised. He offered counselling.
The ministry also said through the National Family Services Division, counselling support has been offered.
A team was also sent to visit the area and talk to the families about the various grants they may be able to access.
Social Development officers were at the home of Maureen Nobee when Newsday visited last Friday, assessing the damage her home had suffered.
Among the grants being offered are the rental assistance grant, household items grant, school supplies grant, clothing grant, minor house repair grant, sanitary plumbing grant and house-wiring assistance grant.
Seven assessments have been done to date. Of the houses damaged, only one property was insured.
Of the seven households, four of them had damage to household items in addition to roof damage.
The ministry said it is committed to ensuring the necessary resources are mobilised to bring a sense of normality to affected families in the shortest possible time.
Those affected can call the ministry’s toll-free hotline at 800-1MSD or the National Family Services Division at 623-2608; Ext 6300-6307 for psychosocial support or counselling.