News

Fearless residents ride out hurricane

BY KARYL WALKER Online news editor walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, October 25, 2012    

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HOURS before Hurricane Sandy hit Jamaica yesterday there were signs that the tropical system should not be taken lightly.

At 9:00 am, 10-feet-high waves pounded the pile of rocks placed along the Palisadoes Road by workers contracted to China Harbour Engineering Company to repair the flood-prone road that leads to the Norman Manley International Airport and the historic fishing community of Port Royal.

At nearby Caribbean Terrace, the story was the same. High waves crashed into the seaside residential community from the Caribbean Sea at a terrifying pace.

Even though the hurricane was still out at sea in the early morning, the wind was so strong that it dislocated a high-tension wire which caused sparks to fly, posing further threat in Caribbean Terrace. The sparks caused panic among some residents who quickly moved their vehicles and retreated indoors.

But despite the impending danger, many Caribbean Terrace residents were adamant that they would not leave their homes, which were battered and looted during Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

"We are not leaving our homes and belongings for thieves to come and have a field day. Leave and go where?" one resident questioned as he spoke to the Jamaica Observer.

The sentiments were the same in Port Royal.

When the Observer news team went to the community, fishermen were seeing securing their vessels while other members of the community lounged at a bar and enjoyed alcoholic drinks.

Residents of Port Royal have consistently rejected calls for them to evacuate the community whenever storms threaten, and yesterday was no different.

Roderick Hunt has lived in the fishing village for all of his 63 years and said at no time has he felt threatened by a hurricane. "We are going no place. Hurricanes don't affect Port Royal, as this community sits on water and water doesn't trouble water. Anybody who leaves is a deportee," Hunt quipped.

"We cannot leave and then outsiders come and run riot here; we prefer to ride out the storm as we know that Port Royal is safe," another resident said.

As Sandy's showers and strong winds lashed Bull Bay and neighbouring districts in St Andrew and St Thomas, a number of residents were seen milling about, apparently unconcerned about the approaching hurricane.

But Sandy seemed intent on making a statement and soon sheets of zinc were sent careening through the air, trees were blown down and the waters in the rivers at that section of the island began rising at a fast pace.

As the morning dragged on, the reality seemed to dawn on those who reside between Bull Bay and Yallahs in St Thomas that Sandy was intent on making a lasting impression on their lives.

Meanwhile, in the troubled community of Kintyre in St Andrew, some residents heeded the warning to evacuate, while others stood at the banks of the Hope River and looked on anxiously as it's angry waters came close to overflowing banks.

"We are just watching and waiting. If things get worse, me and my family will leave and go to a shelter, but for now we just watching," one man said.

At the informal St Andrew settlement of Sandy Park, located off Liguanea Avenue, where five members of one family perished when flood waters dumped by Tropical Storm Nicole washed away their home a few years ago, residents stood on the banks of the gully and looked on nervously as the water rose rapidly.

The five lived in a house which was perched on the edge of a waterway that leads to the Sandy Gully. The house was washed away after a retaining wall fell under the pressure of flood waters.

Two weeks ago, the Government promised to repair the waterway as a threat posed by further erosion was serious and needed urgent attention. However, repair work has not yet started on the gully.

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