… as Guyana caught off guard with heavy rains, flooding
Guyanese in the nation’s capital, and other coastal districts, awoke yesterday morning to heavy
flooding caused by incessant overnight rainfall, and as is now normal, received the vital weather advisory on the situation after the fact. By daybreak, several regions across the country were under siege, as inches of unexpected heavy rainfall inundated the land.
As flood waters began to rise, citizens frantically trying to get their belongings off the ground to avoid the destruction. In areas which were terribly hit, even the beds of some persons were submerged, while many of the household items floated through their front and back doors.
The inclement weather also forced the closure of schools and impeded the smooth flow of traffic. The high water posed serious challenges to business operators.
In an emergency meeting held with Local Government Minister, Norman Whittaker, Public Works Minister Robeson Benn, Junior Finance Minister Juan Edghill, and relevant city functionaries yesterday, citizens were told not to panic over the recent flooding situation since the government was working to minimize the effects.
Edghill encouraged citizens to remain patient with the Government Ministries as they work to address the situation. The government officials explained that measures have already been put in place; teams have been put to together “to do everything humanly possible” to deal with the situation.
“We’ve had an overwhelming amount of rainfall; it’s a reality and we should not get into the panic mode,” Edghill said. He pointed out that every effort should be made to ensure minimum levels of damage to household belongings.
Minister Benn added that pumps are being deployed to help the water recede. He added that the current cleanup campaign undertaken by the government is also addressing the clearance of debris found
under bridges which is preventing the free flow of water.
Minister Whittaker has opined however, that had it not been for the cleanup campaign the current flood could have been worse. The government released $1B to clean up the country, with half of that sum being designated for Georgetown.
However, the Private Sector Commission (PSC), in a public statement, expressed concern that once again it seems that the leaders of the nation have been caught off guard.
“The alert mechanisms, forecasters and administrators both in central and local government have disappointed us in their proactivity and reaction to this development.”
The body also questioned the unfolding of the situation, “even after the millions (of dollars) being spent on the Doppler weather stations, hundreds of millions (of dollars) spent on drainage and irrigation annually, billions of dollars spent on the significantly delayed Hope Canal Project and the billion dollars currently being spent on the cleanup campaign. Our confidence in the effectiveness of these programmes has been further diminished.”
The PSC called on Government to drain the most affected areas as soon as is practical, while they explore opportunities to assist; support provided to aid clean-up and recovery of households affected, facilitate advisories being sent out to the public with regard to the expectations of the next few days, assess damage for possible financial assistance or other aids.
They also called for medical advisories to be sent out so additional disasters are not ignited.
Deputy Mayor, Patricia Chase-Green expressed concern at the possible health crisis facing the city due to the flooding. She said she had visited the cemetery areas and communities among other places and citizens were facing grave difficulties. She had opined that given the already high levels of water, along with high tide,
citizens should not expect the water levels to go down any time soon.
After expressing gross disappointment that the relevant government ministries had failed to include City Hall in plans to address the sudden flood, Chase-Green opined that if more rainfall comes the city won’t be able to handle it.
“The city is designed to take off an inch and a half of water. I was told that there was some seven and three quarter inches of rainfall last night. The city is not designed in that way to take off the heavy rainfall,” the Deputy Mayor said.
She added that some pumps that service certain areas are not working and the city, given the high tide, would have remained flooded. The Council said there would be health advisories in the face of the flood, especially since the country is still recovering from the recent Chikungunya outbreak.
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