THE people of Crescent district in St Catherine are angry that up to late yesterday evening they were kept in their community after police personnel padlocked the emergency gate in Dam Head in the wee hours of the morning to rescue four motorists trapped in the Bog Walk Gorge.
The residents say they want better arrangements to be made to handle emergency situations.
The four motorists ran into difficulty while making their way through the Gorge shortly before four o'clock in the morning. The roads to the Gorge had been rendered impassable due to mud, silt, trees, and debris that were washed down by heavy rains associated with the outer bands of Tropical Storm Isaac.
"Apparently they disobeyed the warning signs and the warning messages and ventured into the Gorge. About 200 metres from Kent Village they were trapped and water came in front of them and water behind them, so they were marooned there for sometime," Detective Sergeant Ruben Gunter from the Linstead subdivision told the Jamaica Observer.
The policeman, who had to walk to the Gorge due to the adverse road conditions, said that the motorists were eventually rescued by police officers and personnel from the fire brigade shortly after seven o'clock in the morning. No one was injured, although at least two of the vehicles were trapped in the water for a long time.
"One was a Dodge pickup and the other a Hiace were able to drive through the water after some of it receded, but the other two, one was removed by a wrecker and for the second one, a fire truck used a rope to pull it through, because it was covered in water," the officer stated.
But while police personnel were busy doing their assessment of the area, residents of Crescent district, which is commonly referred to as Five Miles or Ackee Walk, were prevented from entering or leaving the area. Some had got up early that morning to venture out of the community, only to realise that the floodgate at Dam Head was padlocked.
Among the irate residents was Wesley Garnette, who was prevented from driving his vanload of ackees to a nearby factory outside of Dam Head. While he understood the need for caution, given the constant flooding of the Gorge, he felt a police officer should have been posted to monitor the gate.
"Suppose somebody get sick now in the community, how it go?" he asked.
He was among a few of the persons who gathered at a shop in Dam Head, wanting to drive into, or from the Crescent district community, but had no idea how to do so. They all felt that the gate should have been built beyond the community to prevent any inconvenience to the over 600 residents living between the gate at Dam Head and the Bog Walk Gorge.
"The last time they locked it, a lady just had baby and was coming from the hospital and she had to come off here (Dam Head) and walk the rest of the way in," said Peter Brown, who lived outside the area but wanted to go into the community to check on his farm.
Officials had erected the gates at the turn to Sligoville near Bog Walk and at Dam Head over two years ago to minimise risks to motorists wanting to drive through the Gorge during the heavy rains.
Detective Sergeant Gunter told the Observer that police personnel were stationed near Bog Walk to ensure that no-one passed through, however he was not sure why no one was placed at Dam Head.
"We don't allow people to come in and go out from inside there, because we don't want at the end of it all, other persons disobey and come in. Some people will use the excuse that it is Kent Village they are coming and then the police allow them to come in, and then at the end of it all they come in and get trapped and inveigle [us] to come and rescue them," he said.
Meanwhile, the National Works Agency said that the Williamsfield to Glengoffe main road in St Catherine in the vicinity of Mount Industry and the Zion Hill Bridge to Free Town main road were also impassable yesterday. The agency said that teams had been dispatched to the affected areas to help reopen the roadways.
Late yesterday, the ODPEM issued a statement that the Gorge had been reopened to vehicular traffic.
Heavy showers Saturday night also resulted in power outages in several communities. The Jamaica Public Service, up to yesterday afternoon, said it was still trying to restore sections of its power delivery system which had been damaged by severe lightning and heavy rains. The electricity provider said that it was also working to address issues with its toll-free line.