News in the wake of Monday’s flooding in parts of Central and South Trinidad took on grim finality yesterday when the body drowning victim Anthony Walkes was finally found.
Walkes, of New Grant, was attempting to cross a bridge in Hardbargain to get to a relative’s house when he was swept away by floodwaters raging through the community. Members of the T&T Defence Force and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management searched for over a day before finding Walkes’ body yesterday.
The loss of life is but one of the unforeseen perils which Trinidad and Tobago has been fortunate enough to have avoided for the most part during such occurrences in our history and is a scenario citizens often do not cater for.
Apart from Walkes’ unfortunate demise, for which this media house offers condolences to his family, several communities were inundated by floodwaters. Residents in the communities of Biche, Chaguanas, Couva, Mayaro, Princes Town, Rio Claro, San Fernando, Tabaquite and Talparo suffered hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to residential and agricultural property. Many of them would have been affected similarly earlier this year, adding to their financial woes at a time when COVID-19 is already severely affecting their ability to earn income and depleting their savings.
This media house has elucidated many times before on this country’s disaster preparedness programmes and of the public behaviour which contributes to some of the scenarios that put certain parts of the country in danger.
In the build-up to Monday’s event, other parts of the country had experienced similar deluge. While it is almost impossible to predict where flooding will strike at all times, the ODPM and regional bodies should have been a little more proactive with outreach drives aimed at some of the very communities ahead of the current rainy season and long before Monday’s event.
Instead, and as we are all too accustomed to experiencing, personnel from disaster management units in the 14 regional corporations were only placed on high alert on Sunday, when the bad weather had already set in and naturally did not reach citizens in flood-prone areas with critical items, like sandbags, ahead of the torrential rains and flooding.
Again, it is not only the failings of the bodies responsible for disaster mitigation that create the problems. The issue of citizens dumping debris into waterways is a perennial woe, while in recent weeks Minister of Rural Development and Local Government Kazim Hosein has noted construction of private properties along river courses and diversion of such watercourses to accommodate this activity as another major problem now plaguing some areas experiencing frequent flooding.
Minister Hosein, as the man with ultimate responsibility for the national resources to tackle the major problems, must shoulder some of the responsibility. But on the other end, until John Public can resist the urge the do things that negatively affect the environment, we may never overcome the overall problem. Perhaps then, the death of Walkes may spark the change we urgently need.