MAY PEN, Clarendon — Two protests created havoc for commuters in Clarendon on Monday as residents demanded that local representatives fix a bridge that was washed away years ago and clean blocked drains they believe contributed to major flooding last Monday and Friday.
Fuelled by reports that three children were almost washed away by the Rio Minho last Friday, the same day that a mother and her seven-year-old daughter were rescued from raging flood waters, angry protestors blocked the main road from Trout Hall to Frankfield early Monday. They complained that there has been no urgency in replacing the Southwood Bridge that was destroyed in 2017. Commuters and students were left stranded by the protest.
Students of Edwin Allen High and Frankfield Primary schools were forced to make the trip on foot. Some, however, went back home.
About 12 miles away there was a major pile-up of traffic on the section of road between May Pen and New Longville known as Woods after taxi operators blocked access to the route. They also appeared to have been spooked by the inundation of the roads last Friday.
"The rain fall last Monday and left debris in the drains, and not even a backhoe to clear the rubble and full up the deep hole [were provided]; and then the rain fall Friday again make it worse. They cleaned Bucknor and is the same constituency, so what happen to up here so? Every day we have to contend with the same thing," complained one cabbie.
A commuter who gave her name as Kemoy also expressed her concern about the shoddy roads.
"The road is horrible; we can't get to work or school from about 7:30 this morning. It's unpredictable, and what we have seen [last] Friday we have never seen before and so we are scared to use the road," she said, alluding to the massive flooding experienced throughout the area.
Taxi operator Kevin Dixon said the protests will continue.
"Right throughout Woods we want road, but we want the drains to be clean first. The rain fall Friday and since then we have seen nobody. We have been out since 6:00 this morning to demonstrate and we will continue until it get some attention," he declared.
"Teachers from schools were stranded. It was a very frightening and traumatic experience on Friday where vehicles were washed away, so the drainage system is the major problem and we would have hoped to see some cleaning of the drains before the road can be fixed after the rainy season," Dixon continued.
He is concerned about the safety of hundreds of students who have to use the road daily to get to and from school.
"Life was lost here long ago and before it happen again, we are asking that something be done about this road," he appealed.
Many taxi operators have described Friday's experience as the worst they have ever seen because, for many years, they have been using the route and have never seen so much water on the road.
Minority leader in the Clarendon Municipal Corporation, Scean Barnswell is also concerned.
"This section of road from May Pen to New Longville is bad; the situation is terrible. Motorists have to now be using single-lane traffic in some parts to get to their destination. There needs to be a long-term plan to prevent this from happening in the future," he said.
"We realise that drain cleaning in the parish is non-existent. NWA [National Works Agency] has done nothing, and the last time drain cleaning was done was about three years ago so what happened is not surprising to me. This was bound to happen if the drains are not cleaned and maintained. This is the result of the neglect [and] lack of maintenance in the parish, and if we continue like this the parish will need to be declared a disaster parish. We have been getting a battering over the past two years and we keep getting promises to do remedial works and to date, nothing has happened," Barnswell argued.
Efforts to get a response from the NWA were unsuccessful.
Roadblocks and protests were also reported at Foga Road in the vicinity of the construction of the May Pen to Williamsfield leg of Highway 2000.