Regional

Man, 89, in a shack years after Gilbert ruins house

BY HORACE HINES Sunday Observer reporter hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, June 15, 2014    

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FULLERSFIELD, Westmoreland — Ever since the passage of Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 which completely ruined his house, retired farmer Melbourne Clarke, now 89, has been forced to live in a little zinc shack without flooring.

The senior citizen is left with little room to manoeuvre inside the confines of the hut in which he managed to stuff all his belongings in the aftermath of the powerful hurricane, which left a trail of destruction nearly three decades ago.

Despite nearly 26 years having elapsed since the passage of the hurricane, one of Clarke's biggest problems is the apprehension which accompanies bulletins of an impending storm.

On these occasions, fearing a similar outcome to the 1988 experience, the senior citizen normally abandons the little cabin and seeks shelter at the home of community members.

"Some a the time when one (storm) a come me can't stay here. Me haffi go a somebody yard go rest until it check me come back," he explained.

Meanwhile, he is also often forced to flee the tiny zinc structure to escape the wrath of the unbearable heat which emanates from the rays of the sun.

"When the sun hot me can't stay in yah, because in here too hot. So me have to stay outside until night come down me come in and then me get a good rest," the elderly man told the Jamaica Observer.

The old man also experiences much discomfort whenever it rains, during which time he uses containers to catch water which leaks through the porous zinc roof of the cabin.

"When rain a fall me get something and catch the water and when rain stop fall now me throw away that water. Yes!" Clarke said.

Clarke believes that the lingering pain affecting his knees is a result of the cold dirt flooring in the house, which is illuminated by a kerosene lamp.

The elderly Clarke, whose wife, May, died a year after Hurricane Gilbert lashed Jamaica, recounted that they had to seek refuge during the strong winds.

"We had to come out of the house because the storm heavy. We couldn't stay in there. We go at somebody house go rest until when it done we come back come rest," he stated.

"When we come back the house mash up," he added.

He said that promises to render assistance by political representatives are yet to be fulfilled.

"Them say they would come back but nobody no come back," he said.

Clarke's plight was highlighted last week, during a visit to his shanty house by educator Ian Myles who offered to constuct a house for the elderly man starting today.

"I have taken it upon myself... I have discussed it with the Member of Parliament Dr Wykeham McNeill and some other folks. We are planning to construct a 10 by 10 structure to make him a bit more comfortable," Myles said.

"I understand about all the ailments and all the sicknesses that I have heard about and when I was informed about the situation without notice and without coming to look for myself, I realised that this is a delicate issue and one that I have to treat with urgency," Myles went on.

The inhumane condition under which Clarke lives was brought to the attention of Myles by Angella Cochran, a community member.

"I told him of the bad condition under which the old man lives and he agreed to help," the concerned woman said.

Her sister, Retinella Cochran, who lives in the same yard as Clarke, explained that family members were doing all they could for the senior citizen who has three children alive.

In the meantime, despite his misfortune, Clarke appears in high spirits.

"Me give God thanks. Right yah now me still doing something in the sight of God and man and myself. I give God thanks and praise for his kind mercy in Jesus name. Hallelujah in Jesus name," he said.

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