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"Everything flat" — Portlanders recover from Sandy

Some Portland residents lost all to Hurricane Sandy

By Everard Owen Observer correspondent

Monday, October 29, 2012    

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Portland residents, some of whom lost entire dwellings, have been slowly picking up the pieces after Hurricane Sandy devastated sections of this eastern parish last week.

But while work has began to remove the many fallen utility poles and trees which blocked several roadways in the aftermath of the category one storm, some residents say their personal recovery may not come anytime soon.

Donna Withworth, a peanut vendor of Manchioneal, lost everything when her three-room dwelling crumbled under the pressure of Sandy's 150 km/h (90 mph) winds which hit the island last Wednesday.

"I was at home here, and about 12:30pm the breeze started to blow, the house start to vibrate and as soon as me and my kids and boyfriend run out it was down," Withworth told the Jamaica Observer North East.

As she spoke, the mother of five children busied herself hanging out wet clothes in-between drying the peanuts which she sells to make a living.

"Everything down, everything flat, everything gone. We are trying to pick up the bits and pieces, but we have no where to live," she said, adding that they have been staying with neighbours since the tragedy.

She explained further that she lost a bag of peanuts weighing 50 pounds as she had to flee the house before it collapsed.

"The only thing ah save was the important documents like my children dem birth paper, my birth paper, my ID, and mi pension book," she said.

Another Manchioneal resident, who did not identify herself, said the effects of Sandy were even worse than Hurricane Gilbert, which devastated the island in 1988.

"They say we were going to get Sandy at 12 noon, the breeze start to blow and get stronger and stronger then 12:30 we get the 'right' hit and it did not stop until after eight in the night," she said.

Richard Derby, a teacher at the Manchioneal All-Age School, who was experiencing his fifth hurricane, said Sandy did more damage than some previous storms.

"The wind was longer and rougher than last time and took more of the roof," Derby said, adding that there are persons who lost everything.

Derby said he has already located some zinc and has started to repair the damaged roof.

Other residents expressed doubt that Sandy was a category one hurricane, given the damage suffered in this eastern end of the island.

"I don't think Sandy was a category one, because I have experienced others before and this was the worst," said a woman who identified herself only as Alecia.

She added further, "We had it for about seven hours, the longest we have ever had a hurricane.

Another resident, Denroy Palmer argued that if proper building codes are followed the damage would be far less.

"I am saying if we follow the proper building codes and do what we have to do we would be better off by using hurricane straps and so on, because we live in an area where hurricane will always affect us, so all we have to do is prepare for it," he said.

According to Palmer he suffered minimal damage because of the preparation he made for the hurricane hitting Jamaica.

"I haven't lost a sheet of zinc, and my building is facing the sea. I use the hurricane straps, they may cause a little more, but it works out" Palmer said.

Meanwhile, the Manchioneal fishing village was not spared the fury of the storm which left behind a trail of wrecked buildings.

When the Observer North East visited last week, fisherfolks were working in unity to rebuild the beachside shacks.

Steve Graham, a fisherman, said "hurricane pass through and the whole of the beach, restaurant, shed, fishing gear everything wash away. We have to a try build back everything." He said although there was no storm surge, it was the breeze "that mash up everything."

Jermaine, who operates a restaurant on the beach, said he lost everything when his plyboard and zinc structure was destroyed.

"Mi bar and restaurant everything deh a ground; so mi have to start from scratch again, because everything flat," said Jermaine who is affectionately called Belly.

He added further, "the damage is about $500,000, but mi a gwaan set up cause I don't know if mi a go get no help."

Beverley "Miss Chin" Anderson was seen bailing water from her boat. "Sandy tear off mi roof and mi put it back together already. I am ready to get back to sea, but mi only waiting on the current (electricity)," she said.

She explained that they cannot go fishing without the electricity being back because the ice is needed to store the catch.

"Getting back the light and the ice is important for all of us, because without the ice we can't keep the fish," she said, adding that "the faster we get it back the better it is for us."

Another resident Florizel Karr sat staring at what was left of the shop he operated.

"Round a di back deh mash up. The kitchen roof gone, the seats and tables round the back here, fencing, toilets gone completely, part of the shop roof," he continued.

He also lamented the loss of some eighteen fish pots at sea, which he said would be even more expensive to replace.

"One is about $18,000 per roll, and to rig them out is about forty thousand dollars. It's expensive and it no possible to replace at this time" he said.

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