By Devina Samaroo
Residents of coastal West Demerara communities are literally picking up the pieces and counting their losses after they experienced major flooding triggered by abnormally high tides on Thursday and Friday last.
The powerful waves were unlike anything seen by those who live close to the Atlantic shoreline. The sea defence which previously served as a sure barricade from the ocean, was no match for this onslaught, as water was dumped across, flooding several communities.
Mahadeo Rangall, a shop-owner of a grocery store at Lot 57 Ocean View Uitvlugt told News Room today that, “it’s only strength that got me standing.”
Rangall said his losses are immeasurable and he predicted that the journey to recovery from this unprecedented natural disaster will be tumultuous.
Apart from goods, furniture and electrical appliances that were damaged in the floodwaters, Rangall lamented that all of his wedding photos and videos were ruined.
Goods such as flour, rice and salt were spoiled and for those products with strong seals, even though the dirt was wiped off, a foul stench still lingered – rendering the items unfit for resale.
Rangall’s neighbour, the Sahadeos, both of whom are pensioners, said they are still struggling to come to grips with reality. Without over one million dollars in material losses, the husband and wife told News Room that it will be challenging to rebuild their lives at this age.
The Sahadeos said everything that they worked for over the years, such as furniture, television sets, music set, a cooking grill, and other items, were wrecked beyond repair from the floodwaters.
The zinc fence around their house, located approximately 20 feet from the seawall, was completely uprooted from the waves and the road in the Uitvlugt Ocean View area was left in ruins.
Over in Stewartville, a number of residents remain at the Government operated shelter at the Uitvlugt Community Centre.
Homes were completely flattened when the monster waves practically swept away wooden structures that were built in a regularized squatting area.
Mohammed Gafoor, who resides in the area with his wife, recalled how terrifying it was when waves higher than his house came crashing in.
“It was high! When it [the wave] lash on the walls and roll out back and another wave roll and collide with it, it reaching higher than 20 feet. It rocking the entire house, my glass window break and all,” Gafoor said.
Nicholas Beaton, a 22-year-old father of an eight-month-old son, said he saved a woman who was trapped inside of her collapsed house. According to Beaton, he went to check on his house after his wife and child were evacuated when he heard the desperate screams of his neighbour. Beaton said he had to practically swim through the water to rescue the woman.
Parts of the sea defence were disfigured and residents are calling for boulders to be installed in addition to a higher wall in order to prevent this disaster from striking again.
The Leonora Hospital, which was severely flooded, remains temporarily closed. Persons are asked to use the Den Amstel Hospital for their medical services.
When News Room visited the health institution, all hands were on deck as the cleanup exercise continued. Staff members were the ones equipped with mop and buckets, working assiduously to clean up the facility.
Some records were soaked and were placed in the sun to dry; all the drugs were moved from the pharmacy but no assessment was done to determine if any were damaged.
The extreme high tides carried fierce waves reaching in excess of 25 feet above the sea defence, soaring over the roofs of many houses. Residents said the force of the water caused mini tremors.
“It was like an earthquake, the entire house started to shake up,” one resident told News Room.
The tidal phenomenon caused major flooding and mass destruction to houses, infrastructure, cash crops and livestock.
Over 300 persons – residents of Uitvlugt, Stewartville and Leonora – were displaced and they collectively suffered millions of dollars in losses.
The Civil Defence Commission (CDC) had set up shelters and provided hot meals for those affected. Hampers including cleaning supplies were also distributed to the residents.
While grateful for the assistance and impressed with the timely response, residents are waiting to hear from authorities on what can be provided to help them rebuild their lives.