By Eve George
Caribbean News Now Senior Correspondent
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — A very active rainy season in Trinidad and Tobago has left hundreds of residents marooned in their districts and homes, with just as many seeking shelter on higher ground from massive flooding ravaging the countryside.
According to a statement from the ministry of rural development and local government, seasonal rainfalls by an active inter-tropical convergence zone (ITCZ) and a tropical wave has caused heavy and constant rainfall to affect just over 80 percent of Trinidad and Tobago.
Images and video footage of the devastation show scores of people scrambling to escape the rising water, roads swarming with military and private boats, residents fleeing helter skelter, thousands of cars ruined, the loss of hundreds of wildlife and thousands of homes and related property damage in both government housing and privately owned houses.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley visited some affected areas on Saturday and ordered the army and police out in full force to assist all affected persons.
In a series of subsequent messages Rowley stated: “I am in contact with the minister of works and transport, the Honourable Rohan Sinanan, who is on the ground coordinating support and I have also spoken with the minister of local government and rural development, the Honourable Kazim Hosein, who is heading to the north coast, which has also been hard hit. The minister of national security and communications, the Honourable Stuart Young, is mobilising with the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management to conduct an aerial reconnaissance so that we can better ascertain the scope of the intervention required.”
Rowley went on to say that he is proud of the work being done by all citizens during this disaster, adding: “I want to commend all those who have been working tirelessly under very difficult conditions to do what is necessary. I am truly heartened by the response of those who have volunteered their time and donated items to comfort and help displaced persons.”
“We must continue to remain vigilant and heed the warnings and alerts from the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management and the Meteorological Office,” he stressed.
Sinanan, along with Hosein, took to the streets from the first day the downpours started.
Leader of the United National Congress (UNC) opposition, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, along with UNC deputy political leader, Jerlean Jean, were seen in their work-boots and life-vests distributing relief supplies to people affected by the flooding.
Private institutions, religious centres, other members of the UNC, various other political organisations and a wide-array of private citizens all came together to help the thousands of persons affected.
There have been no confirmed deaths from the flooding thus far; however, there have been unconfirmed reports of deaths in and around Port of Spain.
Government schools have been turned into shelters, the minister of health, Terrence Deyalsingh, opened several day care health facilities into 24-hour health facilities, private citizens and business people joined together and opened churches, temples, mosques and business places, providing with hot cooked meals, mattresses to sleep on, clothing, blankets, personal items and more for those persons displaced by the flooding.
All 14 of the government’s disaster management agencies are still on high alert.
Major roadways have also been blocked by the flooding, most importantly:
• Tumpuna Road leading to San Raphael is flooded and currently impassable. Citizens are asked to seek alternate routes;
• Landslides have affected the Matura Road;
• Grande Riviere River and Shark River have breached their banks;
• Plum Mitan and Biche is currently flooded and impassable to vehicular traffic at this time;
• M1 Tasker Road, Brothers Settlement and Garth Road, Williamsville;
• Woodland, Batchiya Village, Aquart Village, Penal Rock Road, Clarke Road, Lowkie Trace and parts of Lachoos Road;
• Madrass Road, Southern Main Road, Caroni Southbank Road, Piarco Bypass Road, Endeavour Road, Caroni Savannah Road in the Caroni area;
• Sunrise Park, Trincity;
• Kent Street, Williamsville and Bois Jean Jean Main Road, Moruga;
• Poole Valley, Cunapo Southern Main Road, Union Village, in the Poole District;
• Mafeking, Naparima Mayaro Main Road in the Mayaro District;
• Churchill Roosevelt Highway between Orange Grove Road and O’meara Road, Arima;
• St Helena By-Pass Road is currently impassable;
• The roads/highways between Munroe Road Flyover heading North, and Grand Bazaar heading south are also impassable as a result of the high water levels.
The national community is advised to refrain from attempting to utilize these roadways until further notice.
The Uriah Butler Road was closed but as of this morning it is now open for traffic.
The Trinidad and Tobago Met Office again urged caution as more heavy rains are expected over the next few days and coming weeks, and asked the public to remain vigilant and stay responsible.