CLEAN-UP: Residents of O'Connor Street in Diego Martin remove their water-soaked items yesterday as they continue with clean-up operations following the devastating weekend floods. –Photos: JERMAINE CRUICKSHANK



Cost of flood damage in 'Diego' and environs:

By Renuka Singh

Over $109 million and rising.

That is the preliminary estimate of the damage in Diego Martin and surrounding areas after the massive floods and subsequent landslips last Saturday.

The estimate was given yesterday by Anthony Sammy, chairman of the Diego Martin Regional Corporation, who said he expected the figure to climb.

"We anticipate this amount to increase as assessments continue over the next few days," Sammy said at a media conference at the Diego Martin Regional Corporation's transport lot yesterday.

He said while the total initial assessment stood at $109,943,600, he expected it to rise.

"The initial assessment of the damage incurred clearly indicates the extent of losses to residents, with several families losing everything but their lives," he said.

He stated that 12 houses, each assessed at $500,000, were "totally destroyed". Retaining walls at 50 homes needed to be replaced and were assessed at $100,000 each, he added.

"To replace appliances like washing machines, beds and fridges and so on, we have 968 homes so affected," he said.

Sammy said two centres have been set up for displaced victims—the Central Diego Martin Community Centre in Diamond Vale and the La Seiva Community Centre which, he said, was now based at the old rifle range.

Both shelters are being managed by the Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross along with the Diego Martin Regional Corporation Disaster Unit, with assistance from the Police Service, the Defence Force and a private security company. Sammy said "basic amenities" are available at the shelters and encouraged residents to access the facilities. 

"This is a major disaster that affected the Diego Martin region," he said.

He said the teams assigned to assist have been "ramping up efforts significantly" to help alleviate the strain on the flood victims.

"Rest assured, we are doing all within our powers to employ all the resources as possible," he said.

He said teams totalling 1,112 people have already been deployed to help "bring life back to a state of normalcy as soon as possible".

"Given the significant extent of the damage, these relief and restoration efforts are ongoing," he said.

Sammy said given the extent of the damage, he expects the restoration work to continue into the weekend.

"This will result in periodic disruptions and closures of roadways," he warned.

Sammy said since last Saturday, over 225 residents had contacted the regional corporation for some level of assistance.

"Relief efforts are ramped up on a daily basis, as the need arises," he said.

He urged people with flood-damaged appliances to keep them until the Ministry of the People is able to assess the scale of damage.

"Damaged items can be discarded after the assessment," he said.

Sammy said the regional corporation would foot the funeral costs for both victims of Saturday's floods.

"Notwithstanding the extent of this disaster, we ask for agencies, stakeholders, politicians to unite. We need to put aside our differences," he said.

"This is huge task and we have a long recovery period ahead of us," he said.

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