Sunday, April 24, 2016

DELUGE: Heavy Rainfall And Widespread Flooding Devastates Portland, Jamaica - Farms, Infrastructure Badly Damaged; Swing Bridge Washed Away; Landslides Leave Families Homeless! [PHOTOS]

Flood rains impacting Portland since last Thursday have left a trail of destruction .

April 24, 2016 - PORTLAND, JAMAICA - Heavy rains in east Portland Thursday night into Friday destroyed farm crops in Seaman’s Valley and Bellevue and damaged vital infrastructure, including roads.

A swing bridge that spanned the Rio Grande and linked the communities of Cornwall Barracks and Ginger House was also washed away, affecting approximately 700 people, mostly farmers.

When our news team visited the area Friday afternoon, the water from the White Cane River had subsided, but damage to the road was visible.

Farmers said that they lost bananas, pineapples, dasheen, peppers, and other cash crops. There were no reports of loss of livestock, but as the rains returned late Friday evening, farmers started moving their livestock to safe areas as the water began rising in the Rio Grande.

“The rain a fall from morning and we were here, and we see the water come up on the bridge and come over and wash away part of the man banana walk,” Howard McKenzie said, while pointing to a nearby farm during a game of dominoes. “Water also wash through my pineapple walk, about five acres, and it mash up Cornwall Barracks.”

Another farmer, Archie Anderson, said: “My farm damage bad; about a acre of dasheen and plantains wash down. It damage bad.”

The swing bridge between Cornwall Barracks and Ginger House has been destroyed.

More of the damage to the Seaman’s Valley Road.

A section of the flooded roadway at Fellowship in East Portland yesterday.

Flood rains impacting Portland since last Thursday have left a trail of destruction.

Flood rains impacting Portland since last Thursday have left a trail of destruction.

A flooded street in Port Antonio on Friday.

O’Neil Hamilton was distressed as he looked over his damaged crops on his farm. “The rain start fall from about seven o’clock and it wash out everything. The river just come in and damage everything — pepper, lettuce, pak choy, callaloo, pumpkin. Everything wash out. We just started to reap, just started; see the lettuce dem deh,” he said, pointing to the damaged crops.

A family of four, including a six-year-old girl, is now homeless following a landslide, which covered their four-bedroom house at Mill Bank in the upper Rio Grande Valley in Portland, as heavy rains continue to lash the eastern parish last Friday into yesterday.

The frightening experience as described by 63-year-old Owen Campbell, owner of concrete and wooden structure, started shortly after 6:30 p.m. last Friday, while he, his wife Inez and grandchild were studying in preparation for the Sabbath day of rest.

"I heard a scraping sound on the roof, which got my attention," said Campbell.

"At first I thought it was the rainfall, so I said to my wife, how is it that the rain is sounding so heavy on the housetop? So I went outside to have a look and it was then that I realised that the hillside had collapse and was on top of the house. The scraping sound, which I heard earlier, was the landslide (earth) squashing the roofing," added Campbell.

He said he hurriedly grabbed his wife and grandchild and made a hasty retreat, just before the roof caved in under pressure from pile of dirt.

Temporary residence

Since then, the husband, wife, and granddaughter have taken up temporary residence in a small shed near what used to be their family home.

"I am desperately in need of help. Everything is covered in mud, including television, refrigerator, microwave, DVD player, beds, gas stove, and a radio.

"We spent the entire night in the shed, which was extremely uncomfortable, and we were so scared. And with rains continuing, our lives are in danger," said Campbell.

The disastrous situation in the Rio Grande Valley is seemingly getting worse, with reports of three other houses being covered by mud in the Mill Bank community.

Late yesterday, our news team received a report that a man was stranded atop his house in that community, where a section of that roadway is reportedly cut off.

The loss of the swinging bridge linking several communities has further compounded the problems caused by the inclement weather.

It means that residents now have to walk approximately five miles to get to either community.

Member of Parliament for Portland Eastern Dr Lynvale Bloomfield said he could only give a qualitative assessment at this time. “The entire constituency has been under rain since yesterday, non-stop, with a few intermittent periods of relief,” he said.

He also noted that a technical team from the National Works Agency was scheduled to tour sections of the Rio Grande Valley yesterday to have a look at the damage done to the road network.

The Annotto River yesterday overflowed its banks, resulting in the flooding of nearby roadways.

More of the damage to the Seaman’s Valley Road.

More of the damage to the Seaman’s Valley Road.

The Seaman’s Valley bridge that spans White Cane River is flooded.

This banana farm at Seaman’s Valley is flooded.

O’Neil Hamilton looks on in despair at the damage to his lettuce and pepper crops.

The road and bridge at Sea View Farm, he said, were entirely flooded and remedial work that was done on the road has been wiped out.

“Both entrances to Port Antonio were flooded out, and in the Rio Grande Valley, as far as we know is that at Seaman’s Valley, the White Cane River has overflown its banks and has affected the road that was recently repaired,” he said.
"The Seaman's Valley main road, which underwent major rehabilitation last year, has been ripped up," said Bloomfield.

"Approximately $150 million was spent to rehabilitate 7.83 kilometres of roadway from Fellowship to Moore Town. Clearly, remedial work has to be done in short order, and I am hoping that emergency funds will be provided to deal with at least some of the damages. It is a sad day for Portland, and more so a worse one for the people of the Rio Grande Valley," added Bloomfield.

Last Friday, classes were suspended at several schools in the eastern end of parish as a result of the inclement weather, which also left a number of roads impassable.

Minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister Daryl Vaz has been tasked with leading the relief efforts.

Some roads in Portland which were affected by flood waters following two days of heavy rain have been re-opened.

As the National Workers Agency (NWA) continues to assess the damage to several road.

The river, which overflowed its banks, flooded several farms and left silt on the Fellowship to Berrydale road.

St. Thomas is also being impacted by the rain.

Meanwhile, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) is urging persons in eastern parishes to remain alert to the possibility of flooding as a trough continues to influence weather conditions across the island.

The Meteorological Service has advised that a Flash Flood Warning for low-lying and flood prone areas of eastern parishes is in effect as a trough passes across Jamaica.

The ODPEM is urging persons residing in these parishes to adhere to flood safety tips as the forecast is for unstable weather conditions to persist across the island today.

- Jamaica Gleaner | Jamaica Observer | RJR News.


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