Flood-hit Lethem residents concerned for their Brazilian neighbours
Favourable reports are beginning to come in from the flood-affected Region Nine. Among these are that the waters have receded to a large extent—18 inches in some areas and almost three feet in others.
Ronald Harsawack, Region Nine Executive Officer, has told Kaieteur News that as of Monday the schools in the Lethem area will officially be reopened. Clean up efforts are currently ongoing.
Harsawack said that the Region continues to supply the shelters with food and water but as the waters have started receding persons are slowly returning to their homes and the regional officials are now working to provide them with cleaning agents and supplies in an effort to maintain health standards.
On that note, health centers across the region are currently being monitored for any cases of waterborne diseases. Meanwhile fumigation exercises which started Saturday evening are said to be continuing.
The outlook is not as positive for residents in the Rewa and Apoteri communities at the head of the Rupununi River where the waters are beginning to rise. The rising water levels are attributed to the fact that the area is downstream of the previously flooded localities and the water is slowly making its way down to lower ground.
In terms of transport most of the road to Lethem has been set to rights in terms of damaged bridges. However the only break in the route comes at Pirara where the road goes into a decline and the Pirara creek is bridged.
That creek, however, has swollen until the waterway, its banks and the bridge are all below water, reports vary on the actual depth of water covering the bridge but it is said to be between six and eight feet.
At present persons and light luggage can get across the creek with the use of boats but trucks and vehicles are still stranded on one side.
Harsawack said that there were at least eight or nine trucks laden with supplies, just waiting to cross. He also noted that there are two road crews waiting on the site to move in as soon as the water begins to recede and at least two Public Works engineers are said to be there as well.
The Regional Office has also started its preliminary damage assessment of the losses that the people of the region have suffered.
Despite their losses, however, the folks at Lethem and the rest of Region Nine are also concerned about their counterparts in Brazil.
Minister of Public Works and Communications, Robeson Benn, told this newspaper recently, that despite the straits they are in, the people in Lethem are still supplying their Brazilian neighbours who have come to buy supplies.
Word has come out of Lethem that there have been television reports of the conditions in the Roraima Region of Brazil where the death toll is said to be 45 and there has been a cholera outbreak in at least one location.
Internet news reports coming out of the area have been rather sketchy. However it is clear that a state of emergency was declared on Monday last in the Roraima Region after the Rio Branco burst its banks and inundated at least seven villages. The authorities are calling it the worst flood the region has seen since 1976.
On June 7, an article on philstar.com indicated that the level of the Branco River had risen to some 10.02m (33ft), surpassing the 9.8m (32ft) level reported in 1976.
Several areas were isolated by the flood waters and 80 percent of the neighborhoods in Roraima’s capital city Boa Vista were flooded.
The floodwaters have also blocked main federal highways in the state.
Authorities had by then declared a state of emergency in almost all municipalities of Roraima. Governor Jose de Anchieta declared public calamity in the state on Sunday.
The governor requested help from the armed forces and traveled to Brasilia for federal help where it was said that he would have met with National Integration Minister Fernando Bezerra de Souza.
The news report stated that more than 400 people had to leave their homes and schools in the affected areas suspended activities, leaving 25,000 children without classes. According to Colonel Kleber Gomes from the local Civil Defense services, the isolated municipalities still have supplies for some weeks, but after that, they will need help.
The People’s Daily Online reported on June 10 that the Brazilian Government has earmarked US$9.4M for the flood hit region.
It was said that at least one third of the total will be used to purchase food, tents and medicine for refugees, while the rest will be spent on reconstruction, according to National Integration Minister Fernando Bezerra Coelho.
The money will apparently be distributed next week and additional resources may follow if necessary, Coelho said.
“I believe we will need more, but right now all help is welcome,” said Roraima’s governor Jose de Anchieta.