Landslide jitters

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Landslide jitters

Harbour Drive, Bayshore Park residents fear they'll lose their houses

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

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HOMEOWNERS on Harbour Drive and Bayshore Park in St Andrew are now nervous after heavy rain from Tropical Storm Zeta last weekend left several houses in their communities at risk of collapse or serious damage from land slippage.

Erosion of the foundations of a gully that narrowly parts the two communities was made worse last Friday by floodwaters which toppled backyard fences, forcing residents out of their houses yesterday morning to mount a demonstration.

The residents complained that they have been haunted by an incomplete mosaic drainage project that was started in 2015 to redirect floodwaters from the main road, through a narrow gully dug behind their homes, to the sea.

Since that time, however, residents say that stones packed to line the gully have gradually been washed away, allowing floodwaters to erode the only buffer between their homes and the gully.

“This a nuh God destruction; this a man-made destruction. Nuh gully never round there. Dem turn the water pon wi so them fi come fix it. Wi cyaan live suh,” lamented Annetta Edwards, who lives in Bayshore Park.

News of a father and his 15-year-old daughter losing their lives in a landslide last Friday in the neighbouring community of Shooter's Hill, Bull Bay, St Andrew, weighed heavy on the hearts of the residents who are worried that a similar fate could befall them.

“Bayshore Park a nuh squatters land. Wi nuh want weh happen out a Bull Bay come happen dung yah suh. One a mi neighbour yard, fi her back verandah literally inna di gully. A night time mi nuh sleep because when the rain a fall and mi hear di water a come, me and mi daughter haffi mek our way fi come out,” Edwards said.

Ethel Smith, a retired teacher and resident of Harbour Drive, explained that 11 households have been impacted by the fast-eroding ravine which is feared may get worse as the rains continue. The elderly woman said her house, too, has been impacted, though not as severely as others.

“We are having a hard time when it rains, and so we are here to get the attention, because so many persons came to look at it over a period of time and to date nothing has been done to alleviate the problem,” Smith said.

“The back section of my house is to the gully, and it is just the mercy of God keeping that section from falling, but it can go any moment. As a senior citizen, I am very worried because every time it rains I have to be wondering what next,” she said.

Residents were adamant that the gully needs urgent attention.

“We would like the authorities to come and assess the place and start something to fix the situation. We don't want people to get hurt before they do something about it,” said Althea Blissett, a resident of Harbour Drive.

“This is carelessness,” one elderly woman chimed in. “I go to bed at night and I can't sleep because I have to be wondering if the earth is going to dig out and mash up mi house. At my age, where I must get money to buy house again?” the elderly woman said, a sentiment repeated by many who spoke with the Jamaica Observer.

Meanwhile, in Shooter's Hill, residents are still recovering from a weekend of sweeping mud from their homes and salvaging what they can. Many are fearful that this could be the new normal for them whenever there is a heavy downpour.

In the case of one elderly woman, Icilda McKenzie, and her daughter, Trisha Arnold, mud and water came pouring through their living room, as well as remnants of their neighbour's demolished board structure became lodged on their roof.

“I woke up for work and I heard a rumbling. I thought it was my mother outside and she was in difficulty. But when I called she answered me in her room. I just jumped up same time and my sister came running to say water was in the room. We didn't realise until we came outside that, to the side of the house, everything from the house up top came down on our house,” said Arnold.

“From this morning when it happened we have been trying to clear the mud. It is a very muddy situation right now. Inside is pretty damaged, but right now we are just trying to clear the mud. The good thing, though, is that we built a proper structure, so it could have been worse. We are just thankful that all occupants for us are alive. It's just an unfortunate situation for the gentleman and his daughter who lost their lives,” Arnold said.

Another woman had told the Observer on Friday that mud and water came barging into her home as she assisted her son with schoolwork.

“I was doing online class with my son, about after 8:00 am, and I hear a rumbling. When I realised, the door fly open and I saw some boards, and when I look up I saw that my neighbour that lives above me, his house came down because it was a board house,” the woman related.

“All the dirt came through the window. My brother had to run off the bed. Water and dirt were coming into my son's room. We had to run around to the passage because everything from the house above us came down,” the woman explained.

The reality of near devastation sunk in for dozens of families who had to contemplate leaving their homes after the Cane River in Nine Miles, Bull Bay, broke its banks on Saturday. Member of Parliament for the St Andrew East Rural constituency Juliet Holness later pleaded with residents to evacuate.

On Saturday, the National Works Agency reported that several road across the island were impassable, including the major thoroughfares from Papine to Bull Bay in St Andrew.


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