Emergency sea wall repairs start -$200M released

Georgetown, October 19, 2005 (Guyana Chronicle) - President Bharrat Jagdeo has authorised the release of $200M to urgently mend sections of fragile sea defences on the East and West Coast Demerara smashed by unprecedented severe waves that pounded the coast after midnight Sunday.
The Government Information Agency (GINA) yesterday said the repairs are under way on the breached points and vulnerable segments of the sea defence system.

While the destruction from the pounding waves appeared to have been most severe on the West Coast Demerara and on the East Coast to some extent, more reports came in yesterday of damage on the Essequibo coast and on the West Coast Berbice.

When this newspaper visited the affected areas on the East Coast - Mon Repos, Beterverwagting and Triumph – around noon yesterday, the flood waters on the land the previous two days were almost off.

Senior Engineer at the Drainage and Irrigation Department in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Lionel Wordsworth, who was at the time overseeing excavation in the drainage canal in front of the broken Mon Repos sluice (koker) gate, said the water did not remain long on the land.

This, he said, was due to several reasons including an adequate drainage system in the area, coupled by a large functioning mobile pump which was installed there shortly after the devastating January floods.

The low tide yesterday morning also aided in getting the water off the land but Wordsworth hastened to point out that flooding was also expected later in the afternoon with the return of high tides. He, however, did not expect so much water on the land.

There were reports yesterday afternoon of more overtopping in these areas on the East Coast during the high tide, but from all indications, this was not as severe as on Monday or in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Wordsworth also told the Guyana Chronicle that the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO) was contacted and offered to provide four ‘punts’ which will be used as a makeshift wall or shield to block the large volume of sea water flooding through the broken sluice gate at Mon Repos.

Under the circumstances, residents seemed to be relatively calm yesterday, after the warnings and advice the previous day that the devastating high tide would have been at its highest just after midnight on Monday and in the early hours of yesterday morning.

One resident of Mon Repos North said he heeded the advice given and stayed awake most of Monday night but was relieved yesterday that there had been no major damage or flooding during the night.

The Army was on Monday night deployed to flood-hit areas on the East Coast and West Coast as an emergency precautionary measure to assist residents forced to evacuate by water that swamped sections of the coast from the breached sea defences.

President Jagdeo called in the Army after visiting the badly-hit communities on the East Coast and instructed that the operation be widened when he and Guyana Defence Force Chief-of-Staff Brigadier Edward Collins joined Prime Minister Sam Hinds touring affected areas on the West Coast Demerara late on Monday.

The government also issued advisories to residents to leave stricken and vulnerable sections of the coast as authorities and citizens braced for more onslaughts from raging tides on fragile sections of the sea defence for another couple of days.

Meanwhile, 16-year-old Lakeram Rameswar, who has just completed high school, said the spring tides on Monday broke the sluice gate at his home village in Number 65 Village, Berbice, sending “alarm bells ringing” in the area.

“Early Monday afternoon residents of number 65 Village were alarmed by the high tides which broke a double door sluice gate into two,” Rameswar told the Guyana Chronicle by telephone.

He said the sluice box, the second of two used to drain and irrigate water from the Corentyne River into nearby back lands was pressured by the high tides which broke the left side gate in two.

This, Rameswar said, sent huge cascades of water through the drainage canal, into trenches and on to the dam.

Several houses in low-lying spots in the area were flooded, he said.

“The water rose as high as two feet in some parts (and) older residents indicated that it was not the first time that the sluice broke due to the high tide,” the young man said.

Up to late Monday night and yesterday, teams were working to restore the koker. An optimistic Rameswar said although the situation was a “little bad” residents were not panicking.

Source: http://www.guyanachronicle.com/topstory.html#Anchor-8334