The second storm of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane season, Bret packed winds in excess of 48 km/h which was strong enough to tear the roof off of houses, topple trees, collapse street and traffic lights.
Flooding only exacerbated the stress of those left without electricity after the storm’s passage.
For Salita Le Blanc of Kissoon Trace in Vega de Oropouche, East Trinidad, she has had to live with floods every Rainy Season as the nearby Oropouche River easily fills to capacity and breaks its banks.
Bret’s showers, however, were a different matter as five hours of nonstop rainfall transformed Kissoon Trace into a sea of brown water.
LeBlanc said all she can do now is wait until the flood waters dissipate and survive on the food and water she stocked up on during the weekend on being warned of Bret’s impending arrival. She said venturing in the flood waters is hazardous as its murkiness could easily hide snakes, centipedes and caiman.
ROOF GONE In Valencia, several families were left without a roof over their heads thanks to the storm’s wind. Norma Padmore, her four children and nine grandchildren were forced to abandon their Evergreen Avenue home when the roof went flying.
She spent the night inside the Valencia South Government primary school which was converted into a shelter.
Daughter Anika Lockhart said she was sitting in the living room with her six-month-old son, her daughter and two nieces watching television when they realised rain was falling on them. “It was nine in the night when the roof started to shake. The children began to scream and just so the roof was ripped off and rain started to wet us,” Lockhart said.
She thanked officials who were in charge of the shelter saying that food, cots and other amenities were provided to the family and others who sought shelter in the school.
The family has split up, with some staying at the home of relatives and others sheltering at a nearby church until they could repair their home.
At Palm Road, Diane Paul had to lift her elderly, invalid parents from their bed and take them to safety after the roof of their house was ripped off at 9 pm on Monday.
“Not only was the roof ripped off but the walls began to sway...such was the power of the winds,” Paul said.
Chairman of the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation Martin ‘Terry’ Rondon was in the mix of things yesterday, overseeing cleanup operations and also relief efforts for those badly affected.
“No, everything is not right, but we are going to put things in place.
And people, let this not be about politics eh. Let us do this for the people the way God wants it done,” Rondon said as he called on people to volunteer their time and energy in the relief effort. (See Page 8A) Another badly affected area in East Trinidad was the Oropune Gardens housing development in Piarco. Flooding affected dozens of residents many of whom spent yesterday cleaning their living rooms, bedrooms and porches. Solange Pile, of 14th Street, said that at 3 am yesterday, water started pouring into her home.
“We tried to stop the water from coming in. But as you can see, we failed. Right now we are monitoring the situation because the sky is still overcast so we have to watch out for more rain. The (Tunapuna/ Piarco) corporation is helping with washing down the place from all of the sludge that was left behind,” Pile said.
SUFFERING IN SOUTH In the south land, terrified and pregnant mother of five Ramrajee ‘Sacha’ Chance spent Monday night praying that her family survived caiman and snakes as flood waters invaded her Sunrees Road, Penal home. Through her tears, Chance said her family could do nothing except when water flooded their home.
When the roof was partly damaged, rainwater soaked the mattresses her children sleep on. No one in the family slept through the night as there was nowhere dry in the house to sleep. Her children sat in a corner on some boxes as the flood waters rose slowly through the night. “We went on top of a table and sat waiting for the water to go down. When some of our groceries in plastic bags floated out of the house we could not go for it since we were afraid of snakes and caiman being in the water outside,” Chance said.
Chance lives in the galvanise and wooden shack with her common- law husband Shameer Ali, 53, and her children Nicholas, 12; Nicola, 11; Neil, nine; Nikita, eight and Nigel, three. At midday yesterday, residents used a dinghy to access the stranded family and bring them grocery items.
“Whole morning we only killing centipedes which were driven from their hiding places by the flood water,” Chance said. Because Ali is sickly and does odd jobs from time to time, Chance said she cannot afford to repair her home. But they had nowhere else to go. Rural Development and Local Government Minister Kazim Hosein later visited the family.
Hosein later contacted Penal/ Debe Regional Corporation (PDRC) chairman Dr Allen Sammy.
“He (Sammy) said none of the shelters were opened because they were waiting on the ODPM to open them. I asked him to make sure the shelter is open to house this family. This family needs a place to stay, they need food, they need water and we have to accommodate them,” Minister Hosein said. He vowed to keep a close eye on developments to ensure Chance and her family get help.
KAMLA TOURS Opposition Leader and Siparia MP Kamla Persad-Bissessar toured areas of her constituency yesterday and distributed hampers to affected constituents. Accompanying her were Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal and officials from the PDRC including chairman Sammy and Motilal Ramsingh.
Persad-Bissessar said her information is that 25 houses suffered roof loss due to Bret. She knocked Government saying the relief effort response could have been better coordinated. “I had called on Government since Saturday to set up an inter-ministerial team with all the ministries as well as the NOC (National Operations Centre) as the coordinating agencies. Therefore, we would not be waiting today for people to be getting any help,” Persad- Bissessar said.
She called on Government to immediately put an emergency relief fund into place so people will know that it is accessible. The key agencies and the key ministries, she noted, would be the ones to coordinate it through the NOC. The Opposition leader noted there are shelters in the entire region but apparently these shelters were not opened to the public. At Penal Rock Road, many residents were marooned in their homes yesterday, hours after Bret had passed.
(See Page 7)