By Lara Pickford-Gordon Saturday, September 14 2013
It was a hellish night for Diego Martin residents. Loud thunder shook homes, electricity was disrupted, more than two hours of rainfall uprooted trees, and caused drains and the Diego Martin River to overflow. Several families lost “everything” they owned.
Four feet and more of muddy water invaded homes between Thursday night and the wee hours of yesterday morning. By afternoon it was estimated that 100 houses were impacted by water damage.
“It was like a tornado passed through the house and everything tumble. Total chaos, you could not save anything,” said resident Shirley Cudjoe who has been living at Texiera Street, for the past 30 years. Family members, neighbours and friends were assisting Cudjoe with the mammoth task of cleaning. There was still mud visible around the house and a visible water line on her wall. Her husband David was scooping out water from a bedroom.
Cudjoe has experienced flooding in the past but not as bad as yesterday. This view was echoed by other Diego residents. Other badly affected areas were: Hilaire Street, Mason Street, Simon Street, Jean Avenue, Gloria Avenue and Bagatelle. In Petit Valley, Chuma Monka, was one area hard hit.
“It is a mess,” said Sharon Quamina, a teacher at Diego Martin Government Primary School, who was thankful for life although she suffered losses. A perimeter wall at her three-bedroom house at Jean Avenue fell down when the drain running alongside overflowed. When Newsday visited after 11 am, Quamina’s colleagues from school and friends of her son were assisting with cleaning. Several items were discarded and furniture put out. All her carpet had to be thrown out.
“It is most distressing getting up last night and hearing a sound,” said Quamina. She heard something hit a wall then a “gulping sound.”
She recounted what happened next. “When I put my foot down, it went straight in water. There was no electricity so when you looked, you could not see anything. So all you have to do is put yourself back on the bed.”
When she first saw the floodwaters she was at a “loss” and did not know what to do. Quamina was thankful for the assistance received. “Thanks to my principal and very good co-workers. They all put a hand,” she said.
Khadine Singh, also of Jean Avenue, was trying to get some semblance of order in her home before nightfall. She said, “everything, more or less” was under water. Neighbour Shaffick Sattan said he was still trying to assess his losses. He said personnel from the Ministry of the People and Social Development were to assess the damage and he was “hoping for the best.”
Joseph Jones, of Hilaire Street, said he was roused from sleep when his father-in-law Lenny Sylvester, raised an alarm about flooding. Jones’ car was under water as well as other cars on the street. Jones was shocked. Cleaning began at 3 am and was continuing eight hours later.
“We are trying to help ourselves. That is the most important thing. You can’t depend on self-help, we would be waiting until the next flood,” he said.
Pipe-borne water was locked off so this delayed the cleaning.
Keisha Hinds, her husband Oba Francois and five children had to be evacuated from their dwelling at Upper Covigne Road and Cemetery Street to the Diego Martin Central Community Centre, at the corner of Jasper Avenue and Wendy Fitzwilliam Boulevard. Hinds described the water flow as if it was from a pipe.” The bed she was sleeping on was soaked, and she had to take her four-and-a-half month-old daughter, Nyla, to safety. Hinds recalled that from midnight she and her husband saw the water and she had to sit down in a state of shock. The stress of the moment caused them to quarrel. He called the West End Police for assistance and the family ended up spending a few hours at the station before being relocated to the community centre. “Everything mash up,” she lamented.
She worried about how her children would attend classes at Diamond Vale Primary School, since their books, clothes and shoes were destroyed. “It is real madness. I don’t know how they are going to school Monday,” she said. While Hinds was at the community centre, Francois was trying to clear the deluge from their home, throwing out destroyed items. “We can’t stay there it is not making sense,” Hinds lamented.
The flooding caused power outages to residents and affected equipment and infrastructure belonging to utility companies.
The TT Electricity Company (TTEC) reported that several areas, including Bagatelle in Diego Martin and Morne Coco Road, Petit Valley, even Chaguaramas, lost power in the early part of yesterday due to severe weather from overnight. At 8 am supply was restored to some areas.
In an update to Newsday provided in the afternoon, TTEC Corporate Communications Manager, Annabelle Brasnell reported, “at this time we are still working in Paramin and Chaguaramas to restore power. In Chaguaramas a large tree came down on a Feeder and slush and mud from the flood is slowing down clean up and restoration, but we expect to have them back on by around 2 pm.”
At Macqueripe, a TTEC transformer was affected and the commission had to wait for water to recede before working in the area. Brasnell said some of TTEC’s infrastructure at Morne Coco, Maraval was “threatened” by bamboo trees and electricity supply had to be interrupted for one- and-a-half hours to clear the trees.
The Telecommunications Services of TT (TSTT) said the basement of its Diego Martin Exchange on the Diego Martin Main Road flooded, but there was no equipment damage or impact on service because equipment was moved to “higher ground.” At mid-morning water was being pumped out of the basement and cleaning was expected to be completed yesterday or today.
The Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) said there was no interruption in water supply to customers. There was “some degree” of flooding at the River Estate Pumping Station, but this did not affect plant operations. WASA said it was involved in the relief and recovery effort and had provided 26 pieces of heavy equipment inclusive of eight water trucks, five vac masters; seven dump trucks and six backhoes to the Diego Martin Regional Corporation. Approximately 110 WASA employees were also assisting. (See Page 9A)