Flood ravaged T&T declines regional help

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[Trinidad Guardian] – Food short­ages, high­er food prices and un­usu­al health threats may be loom­ing fol­low­ing re­cent floods – but on the plus side var­i­ous coun­tries have reached out to Trinidad and To­ba­go of­fer­ing as­sis­tance.

Guyana, for in­stance, is of­fer­ing help with agri­cul­tur­al sup­plies. Con­fir­ma­tion came from Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Clarence Ramb­harat and the Of­fice of Prime Min­is­ter yes­ter­day.

This fol­low­ing re­cent flood dev­as­ta­tion along the east-west cor­ri­dor, cen­tral and south-east Trinidad, af­fect­ing thou­sands. Rain con­tin­ued yes­ter­day bring­ing more anx­i­ety.

The un­prece­dent­ed lev­els of wa­ter in some ar­eas and de­c­la­ra­tion of a dis­as­ter has been not­ed in places be­yond T&T.

The Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice yes­ter­day stat­ed that Prime Min­is­ter Kei­th Row­ley has been con­tact­ed by Ja­maican Prime Min­is­ter An­drew Hol­ness, Bar­ba­di­an Prime Min­is­ter Mia Mot­t­ley, Do­mini­can Prime Min­is­ter Roo­sevelt Sker­rit, Grena­da Prime Min­is­ter Kei­th Mitchell and Venezuela Pres­i­dent Nicolás Maduro.

The OPM said, “The re­gion­al lead­ers have ex­pressed their con­cern for the peo­ple of T&T as we grap­ple with the ef­fects of the floods due to this un­usu­al­ly pro­tract­ed pe­ri­od of in­clement weath­er. They’ve all in­di­cat­ed they are on stand­by to as­sist the peo­ple of T&T in the event that re­quests for as­sis­tance are forth­com­ing.

“The Prime Min­is­ter thanked all the lead­ers for their con­cern and best wish­es and in­di­cat­ed that dif­fi­cult as it is, we are cop­ing for the mo­ment through Gov­ern­ment agency re­spons­es and pri­vate out­pour­ings from per­sons across the na­tion.”

While Guyana wasn’t men­tioned by the OPM’s state­ment, in yes­ter­day’s Sen­ate de­bate of the 2019 Bud­get, Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Ramb­harat said his col­leagues had in­formed him the Guyanese gov­ern­ment want­ed to get in touch with him to as­cer­tain what T&T needs in agri­cul­ture, what agri­cul­tur­al sup­plies would be short and how as­sis­tance could be co-or­di­nat­ed.

His col­league told him Guyanese Min­is­ter Joe Har­mon had been in touch with the Prime Min­is­ter.

Ramb­harat said this had been one of the best years for farm­ers who’d had suf­fi­cient rain – up to last Fri­day. But he said, “When rain­fall gets in­to farm­land there are many con­se­quences.”

Ramb­harat said farm­ers will face tremen­dous prob­lems, not on­ly im­me­di­ate loss of crops but al­so spread of dis­ease and pests and re­cov­ery time. He said the dev­as­ta­tion is com­ing at one of the most pro­duc­tive times for farm­ers: Di­vali and Christ­mas.

While peo­ple have been ask­ing him about food prices, Ramb­harat said the big­ger is­sue is T&T’s abil­i­ty to pro­vide food sup­plies to­wards year-end.

“That is why Gov­ern­ment be­lieves the more im­por­tant de­ci­sion to make is re­lat­ed to a con­ver­sa­tion with Guyana,” he added.

Ramb­harat said re­sources were put in place from yes­ter­day for farm­ers to get claim as­sis­tance forms to try and re­coup for lost crops. Ad­di­tion­al staff are at the min­istry’s Ch­agua­nas head of­fice to re­ceive claims.

Pri­or to the Sen­ate sit­ting, Min­is­ter in the Agri­cul­ture Min­istry, PNM Sen­a­tor Avinash Singh, told T&T Guardian that con­sumers can ex­pect short­ages in food sup­plies as a re­sult of lost crops.

“When there’s a short­age, prices tend to go up. As with any dis­as­ter, food prices will be af­fect­ed. As to the ex­tent, I can’t say as all the hilly ter­rain hasn’t been dam­aged as we speak,” Singh said.

“The Health Min­istry will al­so be out to in­spect food items, since we’re con­cerned peo­ple will try to use dam­aged pro­duce. Some things don’t show dam­age right away, but they do in a cou­ple days.”

In the Sen­ate, Ramb­harat warned that health dan­gers aris­ing from flood wa­ters wash­ing away top­soil in­cludes threat of the spread of the gi­ant African snail. Han­dling this with bare hands can lead to menin­gi­tis, he not­ed.

“That to me is one of the most se­ri­ous con­se­quences,” he said.

Ramb­harat said the snail was once on­ly found in Diego Mar­tin, but through use of top­soil, it spread to Or­ange Grove, San­ta Cruz, Cen­tral, Cou­va and Tarou­ba. He said Or­ange Grove flood­ing could hold sig­nif­i­cant po­ten­tial for the spread of the snail.

Singh said Coos­al’s yes­ter­day start­ed to sheet parts of the Uri­ah But­ler High­way which were dam­aged.

Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter Kaz­im Ho­sein said wa­ter truck­ing, cesspit clean­ing and back­hoe-clear­ing was al­so in force yes­ter­day. Un­af­fect­ed cor­po­ra­tions were man­dat­ed to help oth­ers af­fect­ed in east, cen­tral and south-east and CEPEP and URP units were as­sist­ing, he said.

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