Two days later, James was rummaging through large slabs of concrete, hoping to salvage appliances, furniture and some of his personal effects after raging flood waters undermined the beach house, causing the huge, four-bedroom structure to collapse.
Yesterday, more than two months later, James told Sunday Newsday he is grateful to be alive but estimates the destruction to be in the vicinity of $3 million.
“I lost everything,” he said. “All I remained with was my ID (identification card) and the pants I was wearing.”
James is one of the casualties of the heavy flooding which caused a large portion of the Manzanilla-Mayaro Road to collapse last November.
Several other properties along the beachfront at the 64.5 km mark, suffered a similar fate, albeit on a lesser scale. The road, which serves as the main thoroughfare between Manzanilla to Mayaro, was subsequently rendered impassable — a situation which forced hundreds of commuters to use alternative routes through Biche and Rio Claro.
But after weeks of rehabilitation work, through an exercise undertaken by the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure’s Programme for Upgrading Road Efficiency (PURE), the Manzanilla-Mayaro Road is expected to be formally opened today during a simple function along a portion of the restored roadway.
“We have no problem with the road. It is a good piece of work,” said a taxi driver, who plies the Sangre Grande-Mayaro route.
“We just felt that they should have paved the entire Manzanilla-Mayaro Road because it is in a bad way. But that might be a costly exercise,” he said. Another driver, while pleased with the exercise, wondered if the problem could be repeated during times of heavy rainfall.
“God forbid that should happen but the road really flowing smooth and I like the little extension they make for a look-out to the beach. That was a nice touch,” he said. James, too, was pleased with the road works but noticed there had been a decline in number of sea-bathers at the areas where the roadway had collapsed.
“Manzanilla is not Manzanilla again. Here used to have real people backward and forward. Now, is only who around really appreciating it,” he said. James, who has lived at the house for the past 13 years, said he is also struggling to deal with the destruction of the property.
He told Sunday Newsday, “I went to bed normal the Friday night and Saturday, after six o’clock in the evening, my partners check me with a truck and they told me that the water from the lagoon was coming up.”
James said the water from the lagoon had entered the compound on three previous occasions but he was never prepared for the destruction, last November.
“I ended up in Mayaro with them and then I went to south by my girlfriend,” he said. James said it was at his girlfriend’s house he learnt that the beach house had collapsed.
“When I see the damage I coulda faint. Everything was gone,” he recalled. James, who manages the beach house for his adopted mother, who lives in Barataria, said he was told by authorities to compile a list of the items he lost.
“They told me to take it to the disaster preparedness place in Sangre Grande and they would get back to me. Up to now, I have not heard from them. The only thing that I received was a mattress,” he said.
James, who is currently renting an apartment at $1,000 a month in Guaico, Sangre Grande, said he has received some assistance from two policemen and other good Samaritans.
“But, I really miss this house. I am not a limer. My thing is to fish, cook, relax and go by the beach,” he said.
James’ neighbour, Carole Moller, meanwhile, complained that she has not received any assistance since much of her property was destroyed in the flooding.
“I have had no help whatsoever. People (looters) are just walking in an out and taking things” she said.
“I mean, I didn’t get up one day and decide to push down my fence. People (authorities) came and took down all kinds of information but to date, nothing has happened
Moller, who has lived with her son along the Manzanilla-Mayaro Road since 2000, estimates the damage to her property to be between $400,000 to $500,000. Moller, a US citizen, said she has written numerous letters to the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of the People and Social Development and other agencies but was yet to receive a response.
“I don’t know what to do again,” she said, adding she was considering writing to US vice-president Joe Biden about her dilemma.
Moller said, however, she was glad the road was formally being opened today.