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Boscobel resident under pressure after flooding

BY RENAE DIXON Sunday Observer staff reporter dixonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, January 26, 2014    

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AFTER the flooding of her Boscobel house twice within two days, Monica Whittick is now staying with neighbours.

The damage done to her house between last week Saturday and Monday was evident when persons stopped at her home on Wednesday, January 22, during a tour of rain-hit sections of Western St Mary by Opposition Leader Andrew Holness and members of his Jamaica Labour Party.

The 60-year-old, who has several health issues, was lucky to have escaped the gushing waters which flooded her house, destroying almost everything in its path.

"Mi very sick. Sometimes the phone a ring and mi can't even get up to answer it," she said.

Whittick, who has lived at her residence for over 10 years, said that she is now seeking a short-term housing alternative as she does not feel safe in her house anymore.

"I am looking somewhere to rent," stated the unemployed woman who depends on her children for support.

Whittick sold flowers from home as a livelihood but those were washed away in the heavy weekend rain.

She was only one of several people affected by the water, which residents believe is as a result of poor drainage in a new housing development nearby.

Whittick said that she is not prepared to return home until the problem is addressed, as she will continue to face the same problems.

"This is the third time, so me can't stay in here, Whittick said.

The flooding first affected the residents following Hurricane Sandy in 2012. However, according to the residents, they have never experienced flooding of that kind until the construction of the new housing development nearby.

"It's not the 'air water' that really flood us, is the bad catchment that they have. Because they don't have a proper drainage up there, it just let go this way," Whittick said.

After the flooding of 2012, Whittick said that she raised the issue with the developers. However, she was told that there was no evidence that she was affected.

Last Wednesday the evidence could not hide. A newly constructed perimeter wall was torn down by the force of the water. Mattresses were on the lawns of Whittick's home being dried, but it did not stop there. The elderly woman's home was filled with mud and water-soaked furniture was everywhere. The marks on the wall showed the height of the water which entered the house.

"Everything spoil up," she said, pointing to her two refrigerators, tables and other items of furniture which overturned and were soaked with water, rendering some of them useless.

"See the mud all on the table," she said

"Everything wet up. All mi family dem come and nothing to sleep on," Whittick added, saying that family members from as far as Manchester had come to see her and to assist her, following the disaster.

She said that she was grateful to neighbours who have allowed her to stay with them. However, she does not want to become a bother to them. She does not wish to return home either as she fears that a repeat of what she faced last Saturday and Monday could be repeated soon.

Holness told the residents that he would write to the relevant ministry and agency, requesting that the situation be addressed.

"The Housing Agency is responsible for the development of the houses and I think I have a duty to drop them a little note to tell them what I have seen and the complaints that I have heard. I am going to be also writing to the minister with responsibility," Holness said.

Holness stated that based upon what he saw on his tour last Wednesday, there was a genuine problem with infrastructural planning.

Former Member of Parliament for Western St Mary, Robert Montague who also toured with Holness, said that the flooding of homes in Boscobel was as a result of poor development.

"The drains are not completed, and as a result, was channelling water into the residents' homes. Areas where for the last 15 years have never been flooded, water is now moving into people's homes," he stated.

Montague said that he is calling upon the present administration to do what is necessary to correct the situation that the people are now faced with.

Holness and his team, which included Shahine Robinson, the MP for St Ann North East, visited several communities across the affected parish during the tour.

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