By Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell
The people of Region Eight are in distress. Over 1000 residents are affected by flood. Waters have accumulated to as high as 15 feet in several communities. Houses have been washed away, some have submerged and others are half under water.
Food is gone; clothing has been destroyed, animals—pets and livestock alike—have perished. Children, old people and pregnant women have no other choice but to wait it out. Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to reduce the flooding.
This is because the communities are located in valleys. To this extent, Minister of State Joseph Harmon said that the government is left to only offer food and clothing.
The flooding is as a result of the overtopping of several rivers, including the Ireng River. Kaieteur News is in receipt of photos showing the extent of the disaster being endured by the people of Region Eight.
Men were seen in flood waters chest deep; women took refuge in boats and women and men alike were seen trying to save items. The villages affected include Kaibarupai, Sand Hill, Chenapau and Waipa.
Minister Harmon has responsibility for the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) and the coordination of disaster response. At the post Cabinet briefing, yesterday, he gave details of the severity of the flood.
Kaibarupai was reported to be among the most badly affected. Harmon told the media that the entire village was flooded. The water levels varied in different parts of the village between 12 and 20 feet deep. Kaibarupai has a population of about 100.
Harmon said that request has been made for food and clothing to be taken to that location.
The village of Waipa is also in need of food and clothing. Harmon said that the Toshao of that village reported that approximately 95 percent of the village was under water between five and 15 feet high. That village has a population of 329 persons.
Reports are that the water continues to rise at Sand Hill and Chenapau.
At Chenapau, Harmon said, 10 houses were halfway flooded and one was swept away. This village has the population of about 600 persons who are in need of food clothing and drinking water.
Harmon said, “Some of these communities are in valleys and therefore when the rains come down heavily the waters come down from the mountain and flood these villages.”
The Minister said that the CDC has been activated along with the GDF and the RDC for Regions Eight and Nine.
He said that an aircraft left the Cheddi Jagan International Airport around 11:00am yesterday to have a “firsthand look and do a proper assessment of what the true situation is. Harmon said that the aircraft would have left earlier but bad weather caused a delay.
Harmon continued, “Some of the flood water you basically have to wait until it recedes, there is not very much you can do except to provide for the comfort of the residents who are affected by (the flood). That is what we are doing.”
Harmon said that a Guyana Defence Force (GDF) patrol is in a village trying to give relief.
Harmon said that President David Granger was informed and has advised on the issues and given directions to the CDC and to the regional administration about what action is to be taken and the support to be given to the residents affected by the flooding.
Director General of the CDC, Colonel Chabilall Ramsarup, told the media that the Commission is currently working around the clock to make supplies such as food, clothing, blankets, tents and other necessities available to the affected residents. He noted that efforts are currently underway to have smaller aircraft go into the area tomorrow.
The Guyana Defence Force and the Guyana Police Force have been briefed and units in the area have been asked to respond. Additionally, more than 30 persons, who were trained by the CDC in Disaster Risk Reduction, are present in the region and rendering assistance in moving persons to higher ground and conducting needs and damage assessments.
Kaieteur News understands that Minister Harmon requested Vice President and Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Mr. Sydney Allicock, who is currently in the Rupununi, to visit the affected areas to get a first-hand look at the situation and to provide a feedback to the Government.
While government said that it is trying its best, the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) is “very disappointed”.
The APA, via its Facebook page, said that it received word from the Toshao of Chenapau that “a sky-van was sent there to assess the situation. However it did not land; it only did a fly by. The airstrip is not under water and is still functional.”
Further, the APA, again via Facebook said that it had been trying to get an update from the CDC in pointing out the desperation of the communities in needing assistance. “We are concerned that the response is extremely slow even as we recognise the need for an ‘assessment’ which the CDC says it first needs to conduct.
At this point, an update we have is that about 10 houses have been washed away in Waipa and more than 20 under water; many farms are under water. Kaibarupai is hit harder with a landslide causing the Ireng River to sweep away their belongings. Their Health Centre is about four feet under water.”
APA later sent out an official press release adding Itabac to the list of affected Macushi and Patamona villages.
According to the Toshao of Chenapou, Edward Mc Garrell, approximately 95 percent of his village has been affected in some way or the other. All trails in the village have been flooded, 15 houses are almost submerged and one home was washed away. In addition, the primary and nursery schools had been closed and parents asked to keep their children at home.
The APA is seeking emergency support for the affected communities. These include donations in cash or kind of food supplies (for adult and children), water, clothing, torchlights, batteries, water purifying tablets and toiletries among other vital supplies.
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