RADHICA DE SILVA
It’s been two years of torment for Franklin Guerra and his family ever since the Ministry of Works broke down a bridge leading to their home.
To get out, the family has to walk one-eighth of a mile through tall bushes, across the Cunapo River and through a neighbour’s house to get to the main road.
Whenever rain falls, the river rises and partially covers the concrete planks which lie across the river. To make matters worse, three of Guerra’s children are sick and need hospital care.
During an interview with Guardian Media, Guerra said he lost his job after being marooned in his home following incessant rainfall a year ago. He has not been able to find work since then.
“Every time it rains we cannot get out of the house. The river is dangerous to cross. The water could wash us away and my bosses ended up firing me because I was missing too many days of work,” Guerra said.
His wife Sherida Mohammed said the river rises more than eight feet and many times they could not leave their home. Three other families, the Mohammeds, Lee Youngs and Ramjits who comprise of a total of about 20 people are also affected.
“To be honest I am thankful that there is no school because my children had to miss many days of school because of this problem,” Sherida added.
She recalled that sometime last year she and Franklin had to cut down pieces of bamboo and use them as support to get her asthmatic daughter Leanna across the river to a waiting ambulance.
“Leanna suffers from asthma and so do I. My eldest daughter has migraines and she is in the pediatric outpatient clinic. It is dangerous for us to cross this river. I live with the fear that one day we will get washed away by this river,” she added.
She said many calls were made and letters were written to the Ministry of Works and the Siparia Regional Corporation but nothing was done to assist.
Chairman of the South Oropouche Riverine Flood Action Group Edward Moodie said they came across the family while doing a study of the major watercourses which drain the Oropouche Basin.
“We were astonished to see what they have to go through every time they leave their home,” Moodie said. He explained that Cunapo River flows from Palo Seco and drains into the South Oropouche River before meeting the Gordineau River.
“There are strong currents in this river especially when it floods. The water is high and it is treacherous for anyone to cross this river,” Moodie said.
Councillor for the area Jason Ali said he became aware of the family’s plight in January and immediately wrote to the Ministry of Works asking for a bridge to be built and a road to be constructed.
Chairman of the Corporation Dinesh Sankersingh and a team visited the family yesterday.
“My heart goes out to this family. It is sad that in this day and age families have to go through this sort of thing,” he said.
However, he said the Corporation was strapped for cash and had not received any releases from the government.
“But we cannot stand by and see this family suffering so we will do whatever it takes to help them construct a temporary bridge until the Ministry does something to correct the wrong they did to this family,” he said.
He noted that the River falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Works.
Anyone wanting to assist the family with construction materials can contact Mohammed at 291-1894.
Attempts to contact Works Minister Rohan Sinanan for comment proved futile as calls to his cellular phone and Whatsapp messages went unanswered.