The force offlood water pulleddown this sectionof the perimeter wallat 83-year-old CybilPennicook's house.(Photo: RochelleClayton)
Heavy rain wreaks havoc in St James, scares elderly

MONTEGO BAY, St James — A stationary front across Jamaica dumped heavy rain on the western end of the island Sunday night into early yesterday morning triggering heavy flooding that damaged roads and other infrastructure and had many senior citizens trembling in fear.

Residents in Unity Hall, a community with mostly elderly Jamaicans, were particularly hard hit and were last night bracing for more showers forecast by the Met Service.

One resident, Sharon Bowen, told the Jamaica Observer that she was jolted from her night's rest by the frightful sounds of water rushing into her yard.

In panic mode, she stood on her verandah watching the “disaster that was taking place”.

“We have been up from 4:00 am because mi seh mi a watch it enuh. Mi couldn't sleep just in case we have fi tek weh ourselves,” said Bowen.

“Mi nervous when mi see wah deh gwaan and my granddaughter was so scared, she was inside crying,” Bowen added.

With a wash pan in her hands, Bowen told the Observer that she had just finished clearing water from some rooms in her house.

“Whole heap of dutty water come in pan we last night, mi just done clean it out. Mi gas cylinder all tun over and somebody bedhead wash weh inna my yard,” said the woman who blamed a drain in the community for the flooding.

“They need to fix the gutter. You know how long we a tell dem fi fix the gutter up deh so? We literally a beg dem fi fix it and all now it cyaan fix,” Bowen said.

Melvin Williams, another Unity Hall resident, told the Observer that he has been begging his local representatives to pay keen attention to the main drain in the community.

“Whenever it rains water comes all the way from the Guava Walk main road into a drain that goes right behind the church. The drain is too narrow and shallow for the body of water that comes down,” Williams snarled.

“They put steel to prevent debris from going into the drain and it same one block the drain, so the water came over on the road and damage the main road all the way down,” he said.

Williams, whose yard was also flooded, told the Observer that, though he has made several suggestions and calls to his political representatives, nothing has been done.

“What they need to do is to take the water out of this drain, carry the water down through a new drain straight out to the sea, because that same drain goes to the sea; it takes a longer route plus it is too narrow and shallow,” he suggested.

He shared that he has also offered a piece of his land to the St James Municipal Corporation for a drain upgrading project, but the local government entity has yet to take up his offer.

“I offered to give some of my land space to build the drain deeper and wider at no charge. They promised me faithfully but nothing has been done. I even spoke to my Member of Parliament and she said that it is not her responsibility, it's the council's,” said Williams.

“I spoke to the mayor on two occasions and he said he is going to get it done. I told him that if the rain comes again, my house is going to be damaged, and look now, the rain came and this is what happened, the rain tore down the fence,” he fumed.

For 83-year-old Cybil Pennicook this has been the most frightening experience of her life.

“Mi was watching TV this morning and Ms Lou tell mi fi come look. When mi go mi see the whole place turn inna sea. Mi frighten so till. Then mi hear my wall drop,” said the woman.

“Mi swear a Dunn's River mi deh,” she said, referencing the popular Dunn's River Falls tourist attraction in St Ann. “Mi never know seh the rain was falling so heavy and the whole place washing away. The whole yard was surrounded by water.”

A 93-year-old resident, who gave her name as Miss Meg, was also traumatised by the heavy rain.

When the Observer visited her home, her nephew, who gave his name as Spragga, shared that the elderly woman had been uneasy because of her experience.

“This morning mi go in there she was in such a panic 'til she even sit down a tremble and cry. She even told me that she is ready to go back to farrin because she can't tek this. She is so traumatised 'til she even ask if more rain a go come later,” he said.

Councillor Dwight Crawford (Jamaica Labour Party, Spring Garden Division) told the Observer that he started getting phone calls from residents as early as 1:00 am yesterday.

While he admitted that the community's drains are far too small to effectively manage the water from the hills, Crawford maintained that they are clean.

“There are drains in the community and they are clean, but the volume of water that has been coming off of the hill is just far more than the drains can manage. So, of course, the drains overflowed and the water started travelling on the roads. We have major road damage throughout this area as a result of that,” said Crawford.

Continuous heavy rainfall, the councillor said, has damaged the Unity Hall main road.

“Over the years, this road has had serious water coming through this area. It has been damaged before and we did repairs along with some drain upgrading, but it just seems like the body of water that comes here is far more than they can manage,” Crawford told the Observer.

Several roads in the community were impassable due to debris, the councillor said.

“In the Shalom Valley area, there is actually a man that died of some form of illness and the road is impassable, so the morgue is pretty much sitting and waiting for the roads to be cleared to get a way in to pick up the body,” Crawford said.

The rain also flooded the Jamaica Fire Brigade Area IV Headquarters in Ironshore, St James.

Some of the debris that the flood water left in Sharon Bowen's yard.
Silt blocks the main drain in Unity Hall is seen after Monday night's heavy rain.
Melvin Williams says hehas been begging his localrepresentatives to pay keenattention to the main drain inUnity Hall.
A section of the Unity Hall main road that was damaged during Monday night's heavy rainfall.
The Unity Hall main road suffered heavy damage from Monday night's heavy rain.
Sharon Bowen said theexperience scared hergranddaughter.
A Unity Hall resident's cellar is flooded from Monday night's heavy rain.
The Jamaica Fire Brigade's Area IV Headquarters in Ironshore, St James, is flooded.
Motorists make their way along the flooded Queen's Drive in St James yesterday.
BY ROCHELLE CLAYTON Observer staff reporter

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