Are we prepared?

However, this “event”, the equivalent of which we can expect at least twice a week every week from now through December, brought out members of Cabinet, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management, and others, all warning us of the coming hurricane season, and promising us that the Government is prepared to deal with disasters stemming from hurricanes or rainstorms.

Quite frankly, we are not really comforted by their assurances. Although the Prime Minister spoke of the “disasters” her Government faced a year ago, with the flooding which inundated different parts of the country, we did not experience any “disastrous” rain showers or storms, and the Meteorological Office can support this. Indeed, we have been mercifully spared, not only hurricanes, but even the “major rain events” we are seeing so often on television. We have suffered from what the Met Office calls “normal rainfall occurrences”, and we need to ask ourselves why, before we are subjected to a hurricane or a major event like a “once in 30 years rainfall”.

Clues lie everywhere: The Princess Elizabeth Home reports that they have been “flooded out ten times since 2003”. But it was not flooded in the years before 2003? CEPEP workers said they removed six truckloads of silt from within the Home’s compound. So how many “truckloads of silt” may have flowed down the Maraval river to be deposited where the river meets the sea? We contend, as do many of our readers, that the recent overflows of the Maraval river have been caused by the fact that the river is silted up, and needs clearing and dredging. Minister of Works Jack Warner announced last year that the dredging would be done, but nothing has happened. Mr Warner needs to tell the nation, before the next flash flood, what has delayed the proposed dredging of river mouths and clearing of drains.

We raise this “regular rainfall” flash flooding because it needs to be put in the context of what might happen if we get a major rainfall event or a hurricane. If our drains cannot handle 20 minutes of normal heavy rain, what will happen to us if true disaster strikes, and we are subjected to several hours of intense rainfall?

We almost learned back in the late 1990’s. In January one year, that in itself being unusual, we experienced very heavy rain along the Northern Range and in Tobago. Several large landslips damaged the North Coast road to Maracas and Blanchisseuse, the Arima Blanchisseuse road and the Windward road in Tobago. But we were lucky: The same system moved along the North Coast of Venezuela as it intensified, and destroyed whole communities, which were buried under mudslides. Thousands of people were killed.

So, are we ready for that? We think not.

We hope that at least all of our drains can be cleared immediately, in spite of the bureaucratic blockages we understand are “blocking” this work, and look forward to publishing the maps showing the exit routes out of the city should these be needed.


"Are we prepared?"

More in this section