Floods hit Trinidad and Guyana

What happened

A jet stream brought torrential rains to the southernmost part of the Caribbean causing widespread floodings in Guyana and Trinidad. In Guyana it brought back fears and unpleasant of last year’s devastating floods which caused untold damage to livestock and property.

The damage this year in Guyana was much less than last year but still it caused havoc and forced people to flee to shelters particularly in the Berbice region. Still there was widespread damage to crops, livestock and property with losses running up to millions of dollars. A major crop loss was rice, one of the major exports of Guyana.

Ministry of Health teams went into action as some people came down with vomiting and diarrhoea and others were affected with skin irritations, which have been blamed on their coming into contact with contaminated flood waters.

This year proper functioning of sluice gates and use of drainage pumps led the water levels keeping low.

In Trinidad it was worse as areas in the south were completely flooded out and villagers marooned. Some wooden houses collapsed, other property damaged and crops and livestock perished. Losses amounted to millions of dollars.

School children were stranded and workers couldn’t get to their place of employment as the floods made the roads impassable.

Apart from the rain in some areas there were high winds which blew off roofs from some buildings.

The hardest hit areas were south, south east, central and small section of Port of Spain and some towns along the Eastern Main Road leading to Arima.

The Office of Disaster Preparedness Management (ODPM), the Fire Services and the Police swung into action and rescued people who were stranded. People were told to move to higher ground, refrain from touching electrical equipment and not to cross any body of water which is above their knees. They were advised against going sightseeing in the flooded areas and not to drive if the waters are more than two feet high.

The fast ferry service from Trinidad to Tobago was grounded because of the bad weather. But it resumed when there was a lessening of the turbulence.

Although it’s the dry season, yet there have been torrential rain, falling non-stop for several days. Meteorologists have said that a jet stream is responsible for the inclement weather. They said that a jet stream can occur anytime and with it would come heavy rain.

In a release, the Ministry of Health stated that with its current flood advisory, the public should boil all drinking water and pay attention to all food items that may have come into contact with the flood waters. Non-perishable items should be stored above flood level, and perishable items, including canned food with missing labels, should be destroyed.

Commentators’ views

The government of Trinidad and Tobago came in for a lot of pounding. Not because of the weather, over which it has no control, but because of poor drainage system. Said one radio programme moderator:  “Every year it’s the same thing particularly in central and south Trinidad. The solution is to dredge the rivers to let the waters flow.”

Some commentators referred to acting chief meteorologist Shakeer Baig who said that the long term average rainfall for January is 71.2 millimetres. But last year the rainfall measured 234.2 millimetres for January with the dry season starting in February. This year seems headed for a replay.

Baig said that if this pattern continues there will be a lot more rain coming this January which has recorded 120.7 millimetres of rainfall so far.

So, the commentators pointed out, there is a pattern that there is going to be more rain over the years, therefore commonsense would dictate that we pay attention to drainage. “We can’t stop the rain but at least we could alleviate the suffering and inconveniences by helping the water to drain off as quickly as possible: “ said a regular caller to radio programmes.

Such a move would bring the region closer and strengthen ties within the CARICOM family of nations, it concluded.