Residents of Diego Martin are slowly beginning the arduous task of cleaning up after heavy rains early this morning caused massive flooding through the region.
From as early as 2 a.m. the Diego Martin River broke its banks, spewing silt and other debris onto the Diego Martin Highway. Residents living along the river were trapped by the ravaging floodwaters that rose rapidly, ranging from several inches to almost five feet in some areas.
Some of the hardest hit places included Simon Street, Hillaire Street, Jean Avenue, Chumamonka Avenue, Savannah, Green Hill Village, Tomato Trace North, Vanderpool Lane and St Lucien Road.
The reaction from first responders and emergency crews, including the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management, the Diego Martin Regional Corporation (DMRC), the Fire Services and the Army, was swift.
Member of Parliament for Diego Martin Central Dr Amery Browne and members of his constituency office were out as soon as the rains began, Browne told the Express.
DMRC chairman Anthony Sammy, who arrived with Blue Range, Diego Martin resident Justice Minister Emmanuel George, also said he and his crews were out as soon as the rains began, in anticipation of flooding.
The men spoke to the Express around 4 a.m., arriving with an emergency crew that had been called to assist the evacuation of a home for the elderly—GH and DD’s Sanctuary— in Chumamonka Avenue that had become flooded. The residents were safely moved to higher ground within the compound.
Despite first responders’ best efforts, the damage to property by floodwaters was severe.
The frustration of the Jemmot family—who live across the road from Sanctuary—was palpable.
The family said it was the third time this year that they had to face floods, but nothing tangible was being done, just politicians talking.
The Jemmots did not sleep that night. Having learnt from experience, they began moving valuables to higher ground, from the moment the rain started. Food waters crested at about 2 a.m. to almost a foot above ground.
At Sanctuary, manageress Gail Trancoso said she received a phone call from the night nurse at around 1 a.m. in distress about the rising waters. By the time she arrived from her home in Valsayn, she said, the water had already seeped into the building.
She and her staff had already begun evacuating some of the 12 affected residents at the home by the time the first arrived, but she was promised assistance to sanitise the area as soon as possible. That was imperative, she said, because there were some residents who have health concerns and require a disinfected environment.
“Right now our priority to make sure life and limb are safe, and it is very positive that there have been no reports to the contrary,” Browne said.
Sammy said the army had been called in to help clear the highways in time for people to make it to work. George, using his connections from his previous incarnation as Minister of Works and Infrastructure said he had already contacted the Director of Highways to assist with clean-up operations.
After leaving Sanctuary, the Express travelled with two emergency volunteers from the area to some of the more distressed areas like Simon Street and Hillaire Street. By then, the floodwaters had mostly subsided from its peak of almost four feet, as evidenced by water marks on walls and fences.
In homes however, the water damage was evident, with men bailing out their living spaces with buckets. The flood waters had appeared so quickly, some of the residents were still in various stages of undress as befitting a night of rest, instead having to deal with personal disaster.
Driving through the different areas, media crews eventually caught up with Sammy and George again. Sammy said the highway for the most part clear, with some residual silt that was being washed away by Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) crews.
“With this type of rain there is bound to flooding. The river courses are clear. We have a three-month cycle for cleaning the drains under our purview, and I would say about 95 per cent are cleared. The courses are clear, it’s the volume (that’s the issue),” he said.
Sammy added that he had invited three Venezuelan engineers to come to Diego Martin to plan a comprehensive programme to deal with the flooding problem in the area.