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Thursday 15 November 2018
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Tomas leaves $50M in losses

WITH ABOUT 90 percent of an assessment exercise completed, it is estimated that relief effort in the wake of damage to Tobago associated with Hurricane Tomas has so far cost the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) $50 million.

This figure was revealed yesterday by Gary Melville, Assistant Secretary at the THA’s Division of Infrastructure and Public Utilities (DIPU). Addressing the regular weekly post-Executive Council meeting press briefing, Melville said it would cost DIPU some $25 million for remedial/repair work to infrastructure, including rebuilding drains, retaining walls etc, in certain areas in north east Tobago such as Delaford, Speyside, Charlottevlle, among other districts, along with $15 million for areas in the island’s west end and certain areas along the Northside Road into Castara, L’Anse Fourmi and on to Hermitage, near Charlotteville. In addition, he reported the clean-up effort has so far cost the Division some $10 million. Melville said the assessment exericse should be completed within a couple of days and an overall figure covering the total damage and resulting remedial works would be available by weekend or early next week. He reported that the clean-up exerice had continued apace over the past several days and major roadways and the majority of secondary roads had been cleared.

At present, he said the rebuilding of infrastructure was in progress. He explained that the remedial/repair works are being undertaken by DIPU’s ‘Development’ department, the regular workforce in some instances, along with Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) workers, while some of the work would be contracted out to private operators.

Melville said the damage to property was “not so great. At the end of it all, we can count ourselves fortunate, if we could use such a word, in comparison to what has happened in other places (in the Caribbean)”, he asserted. At the same time, Melville made it clear that the Division did not have the resources to build retaining walls “everywhere” that people feel such walls should be built. “It’s just impossible from a financial standpoint!” he stressed.

“As individuals we must take responsibility for our surroundings”. Melville noted, “as we speak”, homes were going up along riversides and on “impossible” slopes. He said that in some instances the cost of erecting retaining walls in circumstances where homes were under threat by landslips, was three to four times the value of the property. He added that in cases where walls could not be built because of the exorbitant cost and/or the complex nature of the topography, the relocation of the affected homeowners would be considered.

He, however, noted that in the current fall-out only two persons were affected in this regard. Responding to a Newsday query, Melville also acknowledged the THA may not have the legal authority to forcibly remove homeowners who defy advice and choose to remain on their legally-owned property which may be deemed by the authorities to be under threat.

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