Flooded area was once a river bed, says Bull Bay resident

Flooded area was once a river bed, says Bull Bay resident

Senior staff reporter

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

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SEVENTY-three-year-old Madge Harris is not surprised that the Chalk River burst its banks during heavy rain Sunday night sending angry floodwaters into the homes of her neighbours on Weise Road, Nine Miles, Bull Bay, while depositing sand, silt and stones onto the road.

That happened, she said, because houses have been built in what was once a riverbed.

The once-asphalt road was covered in about four feet of sand and stone yesterday as water from the river gushed onto the road, making its path through a house neighbouring the Weise Road Church of God.

There were no occupants in the home, but Harris told the Jamaica Observer that she grew up in the area in the 1960s when the riverbed stood untouched.

“Nobody lived here in the 60s. It was a riverbed, only the Weises and dem call here Weise Road. No road wasn't here, it was a river bed, it was all river bed. Some sharp edge stone used to deh all bout,” Harris said.

“I grow up here so I know what this place was all about. All where you see dem Bobo Hills deh, when rain fall and red water used to come down it wasn't easy. The whole of round here was a riverbed right to Taylor Land over there,” she said, pointing. “Everything was riverbed.”

Harris said all of that changed in early 1971 when a resident decided the land belonged to him and began leasing bits and pieces to individuals.

According to Harris, the fate of current Weise Road residents is retribution for the early developments that transformed the natural area into residential spaces.

“I believe it's the building up [by] the people. It wasn't a living place, so all this water should be going down in the river. The river should control more better that the water keeps taking its course, but everybody keeps building and building,” she said.

But, other residents disagreed, and said the problem was the halting of mining in the gully that once helped to mitigate the large volumes of sand, silt and stone that the river would deposit in the culvert.

“From day one, the gully bed usually mine and dem stop mine the t'ing. Dem stop the man from mine the gully [and] after that what the Government do is dem full the gully of bare dirt on the two side. We did know say one day when real rain a fall a dis it would end up to. If dem did put back a stone wall, like how it set originally, there wouldn't be a problem. Usually, when we did likkle the river usually come down and go straight down because the stone wall was there. But now, instead dem pack it go straight down by putting dirt on both sides, so when rain fall and the dirt get soft, it wash out the community,” said a resident who identified himself as Rocker.

“All it needs is to build back the groyne go straight down. It can build back and lead the water straight down,” he argued. “I live here from 1975, so mi grow here so and see water a go straight down. Nuh care how much house a build, it no have anything to do with the riverbed. All them have to do is dig out back the riverbed and build back the groyne.”

Fitzgerald Benjamin, a Weise Road resident since 1979, said it's not the first time that the river has burst its bank. It happens, he said, when the gully is not maintained.

“When dem don't dig it out or dredge it out, it's like this. Years now it don't dredge. Before election dem come and do a little clean-out trying to protect the bridge. The only concern is to protect bridge, not the people,” Benjamin said, while securing his home with sandbags and attempting to train the river away.

Elaine Cameron, who is fondly referred to as “Miss Sweetie”, said she has lived at Weise Road since Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 and stated that it was not uncommon for the river to overflow. However, she insisted that the gully must be maintained.

“The first time it bruk weh it come through my yard. Hurricane Sandy [in 2012] it break away, but right now the gully need to fix. It need to dredge out. Right now, the gully higher than the road and first time you would be afraid to walk along the side of the gully. Now you can step over. The gully needs to be maintained,” Cameron insisted.

A further walk through lanes in the community showed additional flooding, destruction of property and clothing.

“From last night mi inna water,” said Phillip Richards.

Sixty-year-old Marcia Robinson said she watched from her bedroom window as the heavy water from the river channelled its way through her home.

With fear etched on her face she managed to say, “Mi sleep and fraid. I block up my back door to prevent the water from coming in, but I am afraid to come outside.”

Beverley Rowe added that if the rain should come at night, things would worsen. She also chastised the member of parliament.

“They come and beg votes, but now you don't see them. From morning and we don't even see her.”

When asked if she heard the MP's plea for residents to evacuate, Rowe said she did, but argued that it was difficult to leave property behind, not knowing about its security. She also appealed for the gully to be regularly maintained and its retaining wall rebuilt.

When the Observer left the community, a tractor was seen clearing the heavy deposit of sand and stone from a section of the gully at the main road.

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