A true picture of the damage inflicted by Hurricane Sandy started to emerge yesterday in St Thomas and Portland, where homes were destroyed, crops and livestock wiped out, and roads reduced to single-lane traffic from fallen trees and utility poles.
In some areas, people were still wading through knee-deep water to get to their homes, a day after the late season category one storm, that caught most Jamaicans off guard, dumped heavy rain on the island for almost three hours.
Many homes in both parishes are now without roofs and, in some cases, entire wooden structures have crumbled under the pressure of Sandy’s 150 km/h (90 mph) winds.
The devastation was evident from Bull Bay in St Andrew where residents were impacted by both wind and heavy rains. While some persons set about repairing their roof and zinc fences, others in the Eight Miles community sat hopelessly outside their flooded homes.
But even in their moment of distress, some persons set aside their own problems to participate in a united effort to clean a nearby drain to the sea, said to be the source of the problem.
Scores of men said they started to clean the drain from the wee hours of yesterday morning as they tried desperately to clear a path for the water which left many marooned in their homes.
A resident who identified himself only as Dave, said the community came together to clear the drain themselves as they were not expecting any help from the authorities.
“From morning we deh here, not even breakfast we eat, and look how hard di man dem a work,” he said, pointing to some men lying on their stomachs in a water-filled culvert.
The frustration evident on his face, Dave said this is what the residents face each time a storm hits the island.
The residents say the relevant authorities have failed to act, despite pleas for a larger drain to take the overflow from a nearby pond.
“Politics change ya now, because de people dem nah ask fi individual help like pound ah rice or flour; what dem want is for things like the drain fi fix,” he said.
The reason for his frustration was further evident when the Jamaica Observer news team waded through knee-high water to his front door.
“Mi father and mother dead leave the house give me and right now is like me no inherit nutten,” he said.
Fellow resident Leroy ‘Lion’ Edwards, whose house was completely flooded, said the problem can be easily solved if the Government acquires additional lands to widen the drain. “That is all it need, and yet, nobody nah do nutten bout it,” Edwards said.
Councillor Pat Morgan (PNP, Bull Bay Division) said she has been trying for more than 13 years to get the National Works Agency (NWA) to address the problem.
“From 1998 when I was councillor here the NWA came and took estimate on top of estimate and nothing else happen,” she said, adding that she has made recent representation but that, too, has fallen on deaf ears.
In Cane River Pen, residents waded through knee-deep water to get in and out of their homes, while the elderly and children remained trapped inside.
The residents blamed the design of the road and the failure of the authorities to ensure the drains are properly cleaned.
In Lloyds and Aeolus Valley outside Yallahs, St Thomas, not only were several houses flattened, but residents lost crops and livestock.
Seventy-nine-year-old Hazel McLean had vacated her one-room house only 30 minutes before Sandy flattened the building.
“This house pass through (Hurricane) Gilbert and nutten no happen,” said her daughter Iris McLean.
The senior citizen said although she no longer has a home of her own, she would not cry as “Me just glad fi life”.
The main road from St Thomas to Portland was unrecognisable in many sections where fallen trees and downed utility wires dangled dangerously across the thoroughfare.
Residents surmised that their electricity may not be restored for some time, given the significant damage to the utility poles.
In Manchioneal, the shacks on the beach were flat, while several homes stood roofless.
There were, however, several good Samaritans who continuously hacked at the overhanging branches to allow motorists to squeeze through.
“From morning me ah give voluntary service,” said Kenroy Soaris of Port Antonio, who was seen busy clearing a section of the Blue Lagoon main road.
The Norwich Primary School lost the entire Grade 1 block, affecting over 90 students.
“We will have to make alternate arrangements for the students to be in school,” Principal Claudia McLean told the Observer.
Some houses and churches in Norwich and Passley Gardens suffered roof damage, while roads in Friday, Swift River, Bybrook, Claverty, and other districts remained blocked.
At the College of Agriculture, Science and Education, buildings on the animal science tutorial farm, east campus library, Dorm C, and on the west campus, suffered structural damage.
Last night, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, in an address to the nation, said that she had instructed various agencies to submit, by today, detailed reports of the damage with their priorities for recovery.
“These will be considered at next Monday’s Cabinet meeting,” she said, pointing out that she had surveyed the damage during an aerial tour of sections of St Thomas, Portland, St Mary, and St Catherine.