News

Nicole pains - 2 dead, 6 missing as storm ravages

Nicole hits infrastructure, property islandwide

Thursday, September 30, 2010    

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FLOOD waters killed two persons yesterday and swept away six others, who are feared dead, as Tropical Storm Nicole drenched the entire island, destroying infrastructure, property and crops that will likely amount to millions of dollars in losses.

Last night, the Meteorological Service warned Jamaicans to brace for more showers and thunderstorms which, it said, would continue to affect the island for the next 48 hours.

"Rainfall data indicate that accumulations in excess of 100 millimetres collected over a 12-hour period have been recorded at various weather stations across the island," the Met Service said in a late evening news release.

The dead persons were yesterday identified as 14-year-old Keniji Boyd of St Andrew and 73-year-old St Elizabeth farmer Lenford Blake.

Residents of Flagaman in St Elizabeth said Blake, who was deaf, was having drinks with friends in a bar in that community when heavy rains started about midnight Wednesday. He decided to cross the road, which was under water that had spilled over from a gully, despite being discouraged by his friends. He was swept into a culvert.

His body was found further down the hill yesterday morning with broken bones.

Yesterday, his grandniece Shauna Reynolds described him as a "very kind, gentle, loving, caring person" who would always give from his farm to anyone in need.

Boyd was one of six persons living in a house in Sandy Park near Liguanea, St Andrew which collapsed into a gully during the heavy downpour early yesterday morning.

The others — William Bailey, his common-law wife Skeeta Young, 34 and children Brandy Fritz, 11; Kevani and Sedani Bailey, four and six respectively — were swept away by the angry flood waters and were still missing up to press time last night.

News of the tragedy left scores of people in the community in shock, among them Daisy Young, a diabetic 55-year-old, who said her daughter and grandchildren were among those missing.

"All now me cannot come to me senses," said Young. "A sleep me a sleep and me hear me daughter scream yu nuh man, and a call for her help."

Young, tears rolling down her cheeks, said when she opened her door to look, her daughter's house was gone.

The sixth person missing and feared dead is an unidentified young man who attempted to cross a flooded ford at Harbour View and was overcome by the force of the flood waters.

"Jesus!" screamed one lady who was among scores of shocked onlookers who watched in horror as he was swept away.

"Look how the man go give away him life," said one man.

Yesterday, two fishermen from Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth, who went out to sea in an attempt to ride out the storm, were reported to be stranded about a mile off Dilly's Bay.

The Observer was told that one of them has fallen seriously ill and needs medical attention. However, the turbulent sea and poor visibility are preventing their rescue by either boat or helicopter.

In Spanish Town, St Catherine, the only access to the Brunswick community was via the dug-out shell of two old refrigerators which young men skilfully manoeuvred through the waist-high muddy water gushing throughout the lanes and into houses.

Rosemarie Willis, who ventured through the knee-deep water to stand with the group of curious onlookers on the other side, watched helplessly as water seeped into her house, where her mother was still trapped.

"All of me daughter GSAT (Grade Six Achievement Test) books them wet up, over $12,000 worth. What me going to do now," she lamented.

The residents are terrified that they could drown in their homes if the rain continues into Friday as forecast.

"Is from ten last night (Wednesday) this water stay so and see all now it not even a draw," said one resident, pointing to a watermark at the top of a five-foot wall.

Councillor for the area Althea Tomlinson blamed the rising flood waters on an inadequate and poorly maintained drainage system.

"The entire Crescent division is affected by a drain problem and I am tired of complaining about it and nothing is being done," she told the Observer as she stood with a group of residents watching helplessly as the water continued to rise.

Meanwhile, a trek on foot through the Bog Walk Gorge revealed that Flat Bridge was completely covered with water which spilled over from the Rio Cobre unto a large section of the roadway, dumping tonnes of sand and mud in some sections.

Although the flood gates — which are to be closed when the Gorge is impassable — remained open, not even the bravest of motorists dared to venture into the Gorge.

The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management yesterday reported that a group of persons was trapped in the Gorge since Tuesday evening, but up to press time it was still not clear if they were rescued.

The situation was equally grave in Lauriston where 32 persons were sheltering at the Shiloah Basic School after the angry, swirling waters from the Rio Cobre drove them from their homes in the wee hours of yesterday morning.

Councillor for Lauriston Keisha Lewis said the community of Waterloo was also under serious threat of being flooded as there was a major problem with the drains.

"We are concerned that the water level is rising and with the rain expected to continue for a few days the residents are getting themselves in a state of readiness to leave if they have to," she told the Observer.

On Mandela Highway several trees were downed along the busy thoroughfare while there was major flooding in some sections.

The rains left several roads in St Mary impassable and cut off many communities.

Mayor of Port Maria Richard Creary told the Observer that while there were no reports of major flooding, a number of roads in the parish were blocked by landslides and fallen trees and that some road surfaces were also badly scoured.

Among the roads affected were Richmond, Junction, Halifax, Coffee Gully, Derry, Border, Platfield, Jones Rock, Lucky Hill, Bernard, Barracks River, Enfield and Carron Hall.

In St Elizabeh, water was reported to be rising in New Market; 125 families were said to have been flooded out in Braes River; some sections of the capital town Black River, including the hospital compound, were said to be under water from sea surges; while a number of roads in the Maggotty, Lacovia area were blocked by water from the Black River.

The Great Pond in Treasure Beach is overflowing with rising water and the drain canal that has been under construction for four years but has not been completed is not helping, residents said.

Roads in Manchester were also said to be under water, while sea surges were reported to have damaged a section of the popular Little Ochi restaurant.

Residents of Downs also reported that two houses lost their roofs to what they said was a "mini tornado" Wednesday night, while extensive damage was done to the roofs of four other houses.

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