AS Port of Spain recovered yesterday from another flash flood, Downtown Owners and Merchants’ Association (DOMA) president, Gregory Aboud, warned that the city is “flirting with serious calamity” by failing to ramp up its bridges.
Aboud, who had appealed to the Port of City Corporation and the Ministry of Works for swift action following flash flooding two weeks ago, said multiple ‘warnings’ have already been given that catastrophic flooding is possible in the capital and environs such as Diego Martin, Maraval and St James.
With the Ministry of Planning and Development at present trying for a $100 million loan from the Inter-Development Bank (IDB) for flood mitigation, Aboud said it would be wise if some measures could be adopted to prevent Port of Spain going under due to debris being trapped under its bridges.
This has been a long-standing concern that has not been addressed through the decades, he said.
The concern for downtown lies with the Port of Spain East Dry River in the vicinity of Riverside Plaza, he said, where the right — or wrong — debris, such as large pieces of bamboo, could form a dam that traps other garbage and causes the river to overflow.
The silt, mud and debris that would spew into and settle on the city would be hazardous and cause greater damage and inconvenience for longer than the surface water seen yesterday, Aboud cautioned.
By half past noon yesterday, the roadway on South Quay had disappeared, in some places under flood water that looked to be up to four feet high.
Vendors scampered, some later telling the Express that although they had recognised the symptoms of flash flooding and had tried to prepare, after about half an hour of heavy rain, they were unprepared for the level at which the flooding occurred.
Many struggled to secure their goods, which in some cases were in danger of floating away.
Cars were parked all along the roadway with hazard lights blinking, the drivers erring on the side of caution after realising the water was deeper than previously thought.
In City Gate, the transport hub that serves thousands every day, there was barely standing room and the flood lapped at all its entrance ways.
With the new school term just three weeks away, Port of Spain was yesterday even more alive with commuters and shoppers and for those with children in tow, the nightmare was worse.
The flood lingered for close to an hour on South Quay, while Independence Square and its network of streets had cleared up in about half an hour. The result was another flood — this time of commuters, backed up for close to two hours forced to later battle for transport.
This could be just a taste of things to come and Aboud said yesterday the authorities must also consider the thousands of citizens who live on the banks of the East Dry River.
“All these thundershowers are a preamble and warning,” Aboud said.
“Fair notice has been given.”
He said perhaps Ministry of Works should consider arming the area with heavy equipment that could push debris through should the bridge become clogged, thus preventing total disaster.
Speaking via telephone from Diego Martin and La Seiva, Maraval, several residents said they are “living in fear” and “trembling” at the possibility of another epic flood, such as that experienced in Diego Martin in 2012.
There are citizens who have never fully recovered from that episode, one resident said.
On November 20, 2011, flooding in Maraval caused landslides in La Seiva.
The biggest of the landslides damaged at least five houses and completely destroyed another.
With a rash of forest fires this year, concerns have grown that the mountains may not be able to handle the run-off as the rainy season gets more robust and La Seiva is bracing for the possibility of even bigger landslides, one resident said.
The last forecast coming out of the Meteorological Service of Trinidad and Tobago in Piarco was for a warm and clear night last night but the warning of flash flooding still stands today for vulnerable areas.
Who to call
Trinidad and Tobago Fire Service: 990
Tobago Emergency Relief: 211
ODPM Emergency: 511
Regional Corporations as listed by the ODPM:
Arima 646-2394, 667-1010
Chaguanas 671-5958, 671-5958
Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo 636-3700, 636-3700
Diego Martin 695-7839, 695-7841, 695-7707
Mayaro/Rio Claro 644-1502, 644-2796 or 644-2168
Penal/Debe 647-2975, 647-2975
Point Fortin 648-6656, 648-4424
Port of Spain 623-5092, 623-5092
Princes Town 655-2417, 655-9280
San Fernando 653-8679, 653-8679
Sangre Grande 668-1160, 668-3111
San Juan/Laventille 663-9777, 638-6100, 645-6779
Siparia 649-3473, 649-2435
Tunapuna/Piarco 645-5583, 662-4214