Diego Martin Regional Corporation chairman Anthony Sammy has said 225 pieces of equipment and a further 50 people were added to the clean-up operations in west Trinidad yesterday following the floods.
Sammy met with a team that included Minister of National Security Jack Warner, Minister of Works Emmanuel George and Housing Development Corporation (HDC) managing director Jearlean John to brief the relevant bodies on the state of the assessment and recovery process.
"Last night I thought of it and I slept on it and I realised we needed to start moving all that rubble that had piled up outside people's homes, because after a while it becomes a health hazard and I told that to Mr Warner and within five minutes, he made a call and we had 225 more (pieces of) equipment, moving the dirt to a dumping ground," Sammy said.
When the Express visited the Regional Corporation's transport area in Diego Martin yesterday, it was a hive of activity. A long table was separated into sections for each emergency response group, maps of the affected areas were pinned along walls and people came and went with cases of water for the crews on the roads.
In light of the "all hands on deck" system that Sammy was managing, he dismissed criticism from various quarters, saying that he was satisfied that he was doing all in his power to offset the worse of the damage after Saturday's floods.
"The question is should we have 5,000 men, some would say it is still not enough. All I am saying is we have to do things in a systematic way," he said.
He recalled that last November, during a similar flooding situation, machinery was parked on trucks in the La Seiva community, never used because too many crews were deployed in one area.
"We want to make sure that never happens again. There was too much equipment in one area and no coordination," he said.
"For instance, after the rains on Saturday we then have to go out, there are certain areas where we have landslides, people feel the landslides have to be removed immediately but we cannot do that," he said.
Sammy explained that the landslides have to be allowed time to "dry off" before it could be removed.
"If you try to take it out too early, the rest of it going to come out," he said.
He said while people have been saying that five days after the disaster they have not received any help, Sammy said dirt and debris needed to be removed before they could get into some people's homes.
Sammy said the natural disaster could not be stopped, but the effects could have been mitigated if the proper steps were taken before. He said the scale of this disaster was because of a confluence of issues including poor development on the hills, dumping in the rivers and the concentrated rainfall within a few hours.
"I visited some of the rivers and it was filled with white waste, refrigerators, appliances and this is what we are dumping in our own rivers, our own waterways," he said.
"In the underground drains there were huge stumps (in the underground drains), bottles are there,where is the water supposed to go?" he asked.
The Office of Disaster Preparedness (ODPM) chief executive officer Dr Stephen Ramroop said he was not too happy with the way the disaster was handled in the early stages, but said things were getting better.
He said there were three levels of natural disasters and in Diego Martin it was at level two.
"Level one is contained to one municipality, while two is when one or more is affected and three is on a national scale," he said.
He said the area was declared a "disaster zone" by the Prime Minister last Saturday morning, on the advice from Sammy, with support from the ODPM.
Ramroop said people needing assistance were urged to contact the relevant emergency numbers.
They include the 511 hotline and the Diego Martin Municipal Corporation at 387-0260. —See Page 16