By Latoya Giles and Romila Boodram
It was around 02:00hrs on Thursday that residents of Peter’s Hall and Providence, East
Bank of Demerara, helplessly watched as water rushed into their homes after a koker located between the communities collapsed. By 06:00hrs many houses were filled with up to four feet of water. The damage could run into several millions for the residents, since most of them were unable to save anything.
When Kaieteur News arrived in the community shortly after 08:00hrs, angry residents had flocked the streets.
It took workers from the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) unit of the Ministry of Agriculture several hours to arrive in the community, and when they did, they seemed unprepared. It took approximately an hour and a half before materials arrived at the damaged koker.
Head of the NDIA, Lionel Wordsworth, said that they were in the process of constructing a temporary door. Wordsworth denied that NDIA had received previous complaints about the faulty koker. However, this is in stark contradiction to what the chairman of NDC, Shaid Khan, said.
The chairman explained that only last week he had reported to the NDIA about that particular koker. He said that the NDIA had promised to look into the issue but never did. Khan said that while the maintenance should be done by the NDIA, the NDC would nevertheless also conduct repairs occasionally.
The collapse of the koker caused many residents to voice the need for urgent Local Government Elections.
Resident Brenda Rhobe, told Kaieteur News that she has been residing in the community for 59 years and has never experienced such flooding. Mrs. Rhobe recalled that around 01:45 hrs yesterday, she was sleeping when she was awakened by loud screams.
“I got up and the water was all over… when I open my door, the water rush into my house. We couldn’t have saved anything because the water was running into the house fast, fast,” Rhobe said.
The woman’s 83-year-old mother had to be lifted to the upper flat of the house as the water rushed in.
Another elderly resident related that she was sleeping and felt something wet on her toes.
“I feel this wet thing and I didn’t want to open my eyes, so I was pushing my foot more off the bed to get a better feel.
“When I pushed, my whole foot ended up in the water and I jumped up and see water all over… I thought I was dreaming.”
Ramwattie Toteram explained that everything in her house was damaged. “From my fridge right down to my underwear… everything is in water and mud.”
She was sleeping when her son woke her and said that their house was under water.
“We couldn’t ask neighbours to help us because they were busy helping themselves,” Toteram added.
Another villager, Ishwar Singh, said that he lost a number of ducks in the flood.
“I don’t know if the ducks died and float away or they swim away… I almost lost my cows too, the water was right up to their necks.”
Residents say that despite assurances given by representatives of the Local Government Ministry that the damaged koker will be fixed, nothing of the sort was done.
“When we had a little water in our yards, they said that they will fix the problem, now everything in our houses is damaged and floating away and the problem ain’t fix yet,” the residents lamented.
“WE NEED LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS”
Several members of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) visited the area and reinforced the call for Local Government Elections while empathizing with residents.
Members of Parliament from APNU, headed by Shadow Minister for Local Government, Mr. Ronald Bulkan, toured the affected area. Other members included Members of Parliament, Ms. Annette Ferguson, Ms. Joan Mabel Baveghems, Mr. Desmond Trotman and Mr. Ernest Elliott.
Bulkan expressed his dismay at the continued failure of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration to protect the population from the ravages of repeated flooding.
Bulkan insisted that the administration’s lack of a coherent response to the management and maintenance of sea and river defences is economically and environmentally unsustainable, and the loss of household goods, domestic and agricultural equipment, livestock, destruction of homes, etc., demand an alternative strategy.
He said that the crisis in the community is a clear failure of the local government system.
“This neglect by the administration has placed residents at great risk and I believe it’s a man-made catastrophe brought about by the damaged local government system and a PPP/C administration that is callously unconcerned with local communities and local democracy.”
In a press statement yesterday, the Ministry of Agriculture said that Minister within the Ministry of Agriculture Alli Baksh had visited the community in the afternoon.
During that visit, Minister Baksh met with residents while inspecting urgent remedial works being undertaken by a team of engineers from the NDIA.
Minister Baksh added that all measures are being put in place to remedy the situation to ensure that the water recedes effectively, and cautioned persons to not create a mode of panic by misrepresenting the situation.
“All measures are being put in place to ensure that the water recedes effectively. Thus far, the boards on the koker were replaced and personnel are working around the clock to ensure that the water effectively drains off-land and in a timely manner,” Minister Baksh said.
The ministry said that the NDIA head and a team of engineers were on site to ensure that the situation returns to normalcy.
The team is working on installing stop logs to block the flow of water from the Demerara River during the high tide, and a mobile pump was also installed to ensure the continual drainage of the affected areas.
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