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N Touch
Wednesday 25 April 2018
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Chamber : Declare Penal/Debe a disaster zone

Days after the passage of Tropical storm Bret which wreaked havoc in the Penal/ Debe region, Chamber president Shiva Roopnarine has called for the region to be declared a “disaster zone” so that businesses and residents would be able to access aid directly from the central government.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Roopnarine said a “full assessment” of the damage had not yet been undertaken as several businesses were still submerged under several feet of water.

“Some businesses were wiped out completely,” Roopnarine said, adding, “Some tint shops and printing companies- completely gone.” “One of my neighbours, who owns a graphic shop- everything was destroyed- he secured his things on top of his counters and his counters floated away,” he said, adding, “I got a call from a mechanic, everything in his garage went through water- at a window supply shop- everything was covered with water.” “It was the biggest flood, businesses in Penal has ever seen,” he said. Roopnarine continued, “It was the worst that we have ever experienced and I have been saying since day one that it is a local and national disaster but it should have been declared a disaster a long time now so that the relevant authorities can come in and help.” He said business owners were unsure how they would be able to restart their businesses as several had bank loans or were using other people’s equipment which were damaged in the flood waters.

“I just spoke to a guy and he doesn’t have insurance, he doesn’t know what could be done, he doesn’t know where to go for assistance, he has to start over from scratch. If there is any grant for businesses, he would like to find out that,” Roopnarine said.

“Some of them have other people’s equipment at their place to be repaired, they have things that were taken on loan and they lost those things as well and this is a time when Penal Debe not seeing the best of business and activity such as construction not going on so businesses are depressed prior to this and this just heightens the situation,” he said.

He said the Chamber was assisting with cleaning supplies, hampers and hot meals.

Meanwhile, San Fernando Business Association (SBA) president Daphne Bartlett observed that the storm may be the catalyst that was needed to convince the population to grow their own small crops as local produce would experience a temporary increase due to the severe flooding of agricultural lands.

“It will be temporary but this is a good occasion for many people to get out their pots and pans and dig a hole and plant their little plants,” Bartlett said, adding, “we shouldn’t be buying chive, peppers and ochroes, we can plant that in a pot, a flower pot.” “We have been advocating agriculture to diversify, the government must get into more agriculture but just saying that and giving it lip service is not enough, we have always said that we are a developing country, but when you look at the farming industry abroad, how well structured they are and what grants are in place for the farmers, they protect their prices, we could follow suit and put a plan, a whole system in place that will encourage young people to go into agriculture,” she said.

Meanwhile, Rio Claro Chamber of Commerce president Avid Moonan said while the business community had escaped the flooding which had engulfed low-lying areas, he said their major issue was the disruption of the electricity supply as gas stations and fast food outlets were unable to open their businesses.

“Within the business community, there was no damage, there was no flooding in the heart of the town, the only major problem that we had was loss of electricity from 10pm on Monday night and it was restored at 9pm on Tuesday,” Moonan said.

“Up to last night, (Thursday), electricity had now returned to some surrounding districts,” he said.

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