SLOW DRIVE: A motorist makes his way through the flooded Toco Main Road in Balandra yesterday following persistent showers. —Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

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Matelot mudslide leaves dozens stranded

By Kim Boodram

CITIZENS in Matelot and some parts of Toco may today be stranded in or locked out of their village, following a mudslide in the vicinity of the thirty-nine and quarter-mile mark on the Toco Main Road, between Grande Riviere and Matelot.
This was stated yesterday by Sangre Grande/Toco Regional Corporation chairman Terry Rondon.
The situation had not been resolved up to late yesterday evening, Rondon said, adding that the mudslide was over a month in the making and was now beyond the capabilities of the corporation.
Up to late yesterday, dozens were unable to get to their homes in Matelot as the road remained impassable, he said.
Rondon said even more people were stranded in the village and were vulnerable in the event of an emergency.
“If a pregnant woman needs to get to a hospital tonight, it is impossible,” Rondon said in a telephone interview.
“If an ambulance needs to get in, or someone is bitten by a snake, as it is possible during the rainy season when the reptiles come out, then we have a disaster on our hands. The road is impassable, a few inches away in some areas is the sea. We may not be able to evacuate someone by sea if there is an emergency because the water is very rough during this period,” he said.
An angry Rondon, who grew up in Matelot, said the corporation had reported the potential mudslide to the Ministry of Works several times since the rainy season intensified about a month ago.
While waiting for assistance from the ministry, the corporation did what it could to contain the sliding mounds of earth, Rondon said.
“It is beyond our capabilities and funding,” Rondon added.
“At one point, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) paid a visit and declared the scene a disaster. We had hoped this would force the ministry to act but no one did the work that should have been done to prevent this. It is clear that no one cares about the people here.”
Rondon said with a Ministry of Works office in Sangre Grande and a sub-office in Toco, he sees little room for excuses.
In other parts of the country, typically vulnerable areas in South, Central and East Trinidad experienced mild to moderate flooding yesterday, as a result of rainfall that started Tuesday night and continued well into yesterday evening.
Water levels in the Caroni and Caparo Rivers were reported to have been “high” for most of yesterday and while there were no reports of flooding in the West, the Diego Martin River was also said to have been menacing.
Downtown Port of Spain saw mild flooding on some streets but water levels did not match the more serious flash flooding seen in the capital city in recent years.
Tobago also experienced some moderate to heavy rainfall and cloudy conditions.
A report from the Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Services stated yesterday that inclement weather was normal for this phase of the season and was due to the passage of a “low-level trough and moisture surge, encountering favourable conditions in the upper levels of the atmosphere”.
The rainfall activity for the past two days was predicted by Numerical Weather Prediction Models, which also forecast similarly rainy conditions for the first part of today.
The ‘Met’ Service warned yesterday that street and flashing flooding may occur in areas subjected to prolonged rainfall or heavy showers.
“Given the expected conditions and the already saturated soil, rivers of moderate carrying capacity can become overwhelmed and there is the possibility of landslides/landslips,” the ‘Met’ Service stated.
The service emphasised that the country is not currently under any Tropical Storm threat, watch or warning but advised citizens to be vigilant of their environs and to be prepared for the possibility of weather-related emergencies.
More bulletins will be issued today, the ‘Met’ Service said and citizens may also keep themselves informed by visiting the service’s website at www.metoffice.gov.tt/forecast, for daily updates at 6 a.m., 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
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