Flood evacuation

Georgetown, October 18,2005 (Guyana Chronicle)-The Army was last night deployed to flood-hit areas on the East Coast and West Coast Demerara as an emergency precautionary measure to assist residents forced to evacuate by water that swamped sections of the coast from breached sea defences.

President Bharrat Jagdeo called in the Army after visiting 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. 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 three days.

Brigadier Collins told the Guyana Chronicle that soldiers were last night being dispatched to man shelters for flood victims at Uitvlugt and Anna Catherina on the West Coast Demerara and full deployment on the ground was expected by this morning.

Opposition and People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Leader Robert Corbin joined Prime Minister Hinds while he was visiting stricken West Coast Demerara communities yesterday.

As residents at Mon Repos on the East Coast Demerara buckled down for more battering from the high tides last night, President Jagdeo told them the Army would “be deployed here because we might have to move people quickly and be able to evacuate people quickly if anything breaks.”

“We have to keep a watch. What we will have to do also is to move people to drier ground, and not necessarily to shelters as yet…I hope that people from the neighbourhood will be up waiting and watching,” he urged.

The President said he would have returned to the affected areas around midnight last night, since he too, was on the “watch”.

Residents of Mon Repos, and Beterverwagting, another East Coast village, told the Guyana Chronicle they had never seen waves like those now lashing the coast.

Mr. Jagdeo said two Army trucks will be on standby in the areas which are separated by Triumph village. The army will be working closely with the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) in the affected areas.

The Government Information Agency (GINA) last night said the President assured West Demerara residents worried about leaving their possessions while at the shelters that the Army would mount patrols throughout the night.

West Demerara villages appeared to have been severely pounded by the unusually heavy and high waves on the seawall along Stewartville/Leonora.

Water poured through a breach of some 600 metres (about 1,800 feet), devastating several housing schemes including Sea View (Stewartville), Sea Spray (Leonora) and Anna Catherina (North). Residents reported severe damage with several houses collapsing as the water rushed inland.

No fatalities or serious injuries were reported.

The situation was also magnified as there was a heavy downpour along with thunderstorms late Sunday night.

Many in the affected areas who still had some of their household items began moving out yesterday, fearing even higher tides.

At Sea View more than seven families totalling some 50 persons are homeless after their houses were flattened in a few minutes by the heavy incursion of water from the nearby sea.

“Hope for the best but prepare for the worst,” was the advice President Jagdeo gave scores of residents from Mon Repos north who surrounded him yesterday afternoon when he visited the flooded area.

Against the backdrop of an unceasing bombardment of high waves on and over the sea defence and adding to the fast-rising flood waters in the area, he assured residents that everything humanly possible will be done to alleviate their current plight as quickly as possible.

He, however, cautioned that the key thing at the moment is to ride through the storm, noting that the Guyana coast is very vulnerable since it is below sea level.

He instructed the residents of Mon Repos north, especially those most affected and who live closest to the sea defence, to prepare a list of those who want to be temporarily relocated.

He instructed Head of the Civil Defence Commission, Col. Chabilall Ramsarup to help the residents prepare the list and get them relocated to drier ground.

“As soon as you finish preparing the list we will start moving you,” President Jagdeo told a few of the residents who had requested temporary relocation.

Meanwhile, acting Agriculture Minister Satyadeow Sawh said there was “absolutely no way” that one could have prepared for the unprecedented high tides.

“We always expect high tides and high tides have a level of the waves and we can manage that but what we are seeing here today is unprecedented,” Mr. Sawh commented.

He noted that the koker (sluice) door at Mon Repos broke down and attempts were made to repair it but this proved futile as it was knocked down again as a result of the sheer force of the water. President Jagdeo yesterday ordered that repair works to the koker door commence immediately and that a lighting plant be put in place to aid workers last night.

President Jagdeo told reporters that some equipment was being moved into the several flood-hit areas yesterday afternoon and more would have been deployed later in the night.

“We are diverting all the boulders that we have all from other places to see whether we can’t deal with the situation here,” he said at Mon Repos.

Chief Sea and River Defence Officer, Mr. George Howard, told the Guyana Chronicle that the sea defence system was not designed for the unprecedented wave patterns being experienced.

“The predicted tide was 3.21 litres above chart datum which is about 11 feet above chart datum…(but) we believe that the water level, in fact, is higher than predicted and we are getting quite a lot of water and this water that is coming over the wall is greater than the sea defence has been designed for,” he said.

He also believed that this occurrence will continue in the future and probably more regularly.

Mr. Howard believes the severe overtopping is as a result of global warming.

Evacuation advisory
-- shelters opened
THE government last night advised residents squatting on the sideline dams on the East and West Coast Demerara that occupying such areas is detrimental to their lives. These are basin areas and are vulnerable to flooding particularly during high tides.

The Health Ministry also advised residents in one-flat houses in the villages of Stewartville, Leonora, Anna Catherina, Cornelia Ida, Hague and other areas along the northern section of West Coast Demerara to find alternative housing.

It said government shelters have already been established at the St. John’s Community High School in Edinburgh, and at the Uitvlugt/Leonora Community Development Centre at Uitvlugt.

Source: http://www.guyanachronicle.com/topstory.html#Anchor-6031