News

Sandy batters St Mary

Parish suffers heavy blows to crops, houses, roads

BY HG HELPS Editor-at-Large helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, October 25, 2012    

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HURRICANE Sandy unleashed its fury on several communities in the north-east parish of St Mary yesterday.

A preliminary assessment suggests that the eastern section of the parish suffered the most telling blows.

"Bwoy, it wicked over here; part of my roof gone, some of my neighbours' roofs gone and all a my banana tree dem flat," said Walford "Wally" Freak, who lives at Iterboreale, on the outskirts of Annotto Bay.

"Some serious breeze blow. This storm is dangerous," added the farmer and popular chef.

Officials said that at least five houses in the area had lost roofs, while reports from Belfield are that several trees were flattened and plantations in the predominantly farming community were badly affected.

One woman in Castleton Gardens told the Jamaica Observer that a tree fell on her fruits and vegetables shop, smashing it to pieces.

"Everything is mashed up," she said. "The whole place just tear down. The Junction Road is also blocked in about five places," she said.

Plantations in Robin's Bay, close to Robin's Bay Primary School where current Governor General Sir Patrick Allen served as principal several years ago, were devastated, initial reports said.

An Observer news team, which tried to reach St Mary, had to turn back, as a tree blocked the road at Temple Hall in St Andrew that connects with the Junction Road.

Member of Parliament for St Andrew West Rural, Paul Buchanan, who was at the scene, tried to remove the tree with support from those travelling with him, but a heavy downpour and fierce winds forced them to retreat.

Reports from other sections of the parish, including Highgate in the central region, say that several trees collapsed under pressure from the extended rainfall.

Roadblocks were also reported in Richmond, Harmony Hall, and sections of western St Mary.

The Wag Water River, which originates in the hills of St Andrew and runs through south-east St Mary, was in spate, taking with it countless stray articles.

Most sections of the parish were without electricity from early Wednesday morning and the Jamaica Public Service Company had not restored power to the affected areas up to press time.

The roof at sections of the Annotto Bay Hospital was damaged. "We had some damage to the roof over the wards," the institution's Senior Medical Officer Dr Ray Fraser told the Observer. "We were forced to rearrange the sleeping positions of patients, especially in the female medical and maternity wards which were mostly affected."

"At present, the hospital is limited to emergency cases only, until we can properly assess what is happening and determine the way forward," Fraser added.

Police could not confirm incidents of looting or other unlawful activities when checks were made with them.

A Ministry of Education official said that it was unlikely that schools in the parish would reopen today, as clean-up operations were unlikely to be completed for a prompt resumption.

Some of the schools, too, the official who asked not to be named said, are being used as shelters.

The most recent knocks unleashed upon the parish will no doubt further destabilise its efforts to improve the local economy, which has suffered in recent years from the death of the sugar industry and the several body blows inflicted to the banana industry.

Efforts to reach Port Maria Mayor Leevan Freeman, as well as members of parliament Jolyan Silvera, Dr Morais Guy and Dr Winston Green were unsuccessful.

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