Flood mitigation plans are coming for those communities most seriously impacted by heavy rainfall.
Speaking this morning to reporters at the end of tours of the Princess Alice Pumping Station at Pelican Village, Clarke’s Road, Bayville and Chapman Lane, St Michael, as well as Wotton, Christ Church, Acting Prime Minister Dale Marshall assured residents whose lives were disrupted by flooding caused by the passage of Tropical Storm Kirk, that short and long-term measures would be implemented as a matter of priority.
While at Wotton, where flooding has been the norm since the early 1980s due to inadequate drainage, Marshall said a plan was in the works to bring an end to that persistent problem.
“The Ministry of Public Works has indicated to us that they expect with new technologies they are going to be able to effectively do drainage wells in this area. So as long as Minister [Ryan] Straughan can find the funding, and I think he is very incentivised to find funding to allow MTW to do this, we hope that we can put the residents of Wotton in a situation where they wouldn’t expect to have this again,” Marshall said.
As an immediate response, he revealed that a damage assessment team was seeking to determine which of the more than ten households dislocated by rushing waters of chest-high levels, were in need of assistance.
“We are doing a damage assessment. I believe that damage assessment has already started. We will get a better idea who those individuals are. I can say to you we opened six shelters last night and not a single shelter has been used. So what that tells us is that individuals have actually made arrangements for their own accommodation,” Marshall said.
He also disclosed that the Ministry of Health would be working on an initiative to take care of residents whose health was threatened by contaminated flood waters.
“Some of our big fears here [at Wotton] really are also health concerns because, as we can see, a lot of the wells for the toilets were flooded and individuals had to go through water during the course of last night and this morning. And obviously when toilets are flooded you now have a health risk to be concerned with. I have sent a message to the Acting Minister of Health and we are going to be having a discussion there with them,” Marshall told reporters, while adding that a similar situation happened in Bayville where the five or six houses impacted had pit toilets that were flooded.
He expressed delight that the level of flooding which last night necessitated soldiers from the Barbados Defence Force rescuing several Wotton residents from their homes, had subsided to mere pockets of accumulated water.
He revealed that islandwide, 11 people were rescued from five locations and apart from one householder being injured, there were no other incidents of note.
While he spoke, a tanker from the Ministry of Transport, Works and Maintenance pumped off water at Cherry Wood Circle in Wotton where flooding was most severe. It was there that 32- year-old mother of one, Alija Hall, related a harrowing experience last night.
Stating that the flooding was the worst ever for her and her 15-year-old son Thierry Gittens, Hall recalled that the water appeared to have suddenly rushed through her home reaching above waist level and causing her fears of drowning.
She said the soldiers in the area who responded to her cry for help needed to use a lifeboat in order to rescue her as the water continued to rise.
“Other lifeboats were out…they were waiting on lifeboats…then after the water started to fill the areas where the electricity plugs were, they had to take off their life jackets, put it on my son, put it on me, put me on their shoulder and swam out with us because the water came to the level of our necks,” she told reporters as she sought to fight back the tears. Hall expressed gratitude to the soldiers and Wotton resident Joseph Holder.
When the Acting Prime Minister and his team arrived later in Chapman Lane, he was greeted by a lake at Murphy Pasture and streams of murky water running between the narrow alleys that separated the congested lines of mostly low-income wooden houses.
Residents told Marshall they had been complaining to both Governments for decades about the serious flooding in the community. Marshall was accompanied there by Cabinet colleagues, Minister of Transport, Works and Maintenance, Dr William Duguid and Acting Attorney General, Edmund Hinkson.
Marshall also addressed the issue of the shortage of functioning pumps at the nearby Princess Alice Pumping Station.
“The situation at the pumping station that we visited earlier continues to be a challenge. The Ministry of Public Works is busy getting the two pumps that are not working fixed and money is being put into next year’s Estimates that we can acquire a new pump. It is not good enough that people in this district have grown so accustomed to flooding that every house has a couple of pairs of boots. This is not how Barbadians are supposed to be living. So this is going to be one of the priorities of the Ministry of Public Works going forward,” Marshall promised, noting the new pump would cost taxpayers $350,000.
He explained, however, that in the meantime the two non-functioning pumps were being repaired as a short-term measure while in the future Government would construct a larger canal at Chapman Lane to facilitate the increased water volume.
Marshall also told reporters that Prime Minister Mia Mottley who is overseas on official business would be cutting short her stay to return tomorrow to deal with related issues considering that the hurricane season still had two months to go.