No evacuation plan has been put in place to safeguard Bellview residents in Claxton Bay even as ongoing erosion poses danger to six more houses.
Watching the lands slipping slowly downhill, pulling electrical lines, sprawling trees and structures, the affected residents slept outside their homes on Wednesday night, praying for help.
A day before, they had suffered the trauma of seeing Giles Garcia’s $1.7 million house, crumbling to nothing after it slid 200 feet downhill into a precipice on the brink of the Cocoa Sandpit.
When Guardian Media visited, the snapping sounds of splintering concrete walls could be heard, while the earth shook beneath our feet.
Resident Nardera Ramsaran- Williams hurriedly tried to empty valuables from her crumbling house which she said is no longer safe.
“We hearing the house cracking. I, my husband and my two children sleep in the car on Wednesday night. What we go do? We have nowhere to go, nowhere,” she cried.
Her neighbour Marva Fritz said she too had to evacuate her home.
“I living here for 67 years now. I worked like a man to plaster my house myself you know. I have never been afraid of hard work. I paint my house myself. Now, it’s just a matter of time before it falls down. You think I could make it now to restart everything, at this stage of my life,” she asked.
A shed to the back of her home had toppled overnight along with two water tanks and a 100-year-old tree.
“Now and again every hour and half an hour you feeling the movement under you. The house is going slowly, everything is moving slowly. I never expect this to happen. They mining for sand and this is what caused this. It has a lot of wells here. I know because I was born and grow here.”
She said prior to the erosion, residents had raised concerns about the State doing mining near the buffer zone.
“When they came close to the houses, we stopped them but it is too late now. Now we have lost everything,” Fritz said.
Another neighbour Kamla Harripersad said they had spent over $100,000 securing the front of their home from a roadside landslip but they never expected the back of their home to sink.
“The electricity is dipping right now. You could see how the electrical wires stretched. The whole house pulling,” she said.
Residents lament ‘not even a word of comfort’ from authorities
Garcia and his neighbours said since the disaster occurred, no one from the government had visited nor had the T&T Fire Services, Office of Disaster Preparedness or the police to put an emergency evacuation plan in place.
“From yesterday to now, nobody in authority come to give residents no assistance, not even a word of comfort. I am very dissatisfied but I am living still because I know God is in charge,” he said pointing upwards.
Garcia said he slept in a relative’s front porch on Wednesday night.
Having worked diligently for 40 years in Petrotrin, paying his dues as a law-abiding citizen, Garcia said he was in retirement but was homeless.
“The State has been quarrying behind my home. They do this to me. And now not a single person in authority has come to speak to me,” he said.
He noted that in any disaster zone, an evacuation plan should have already been in place so that if the entire village sinks into the sandpit, people will know emergency procedures that will safeguard lives.
“Good is the people who consider you. My neighbours and friends who have helped me to take out my things from down there. Where are the people in authority? Where are the people who have the power to say let us help this man?” Garcia said.
Garcia called on the government to put something in place to help other families, whose homes have not yet been affected.
Meanwhile, MP for Pointe-a-Pierre David Lee blamed indiscriminate mining by the Estate Management Business Development for the erosion. He said there was a buffer zone that was intruded on by the State quarrying.
“This is a disaster but thank God no lives were lost. It is indiscriminate mining that is taking place. These families were aware because the mining is very close to the back of people’s homes. We are calling for an investigation into EMBD. This should have never been allowed to happen in the first place,” Lee said.
EMBD falls under the purview of Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat. When contacted Rambharat said, “EMBD is a licensed quarry operator so this matter falls under the Ministry of Energy. They together with EMBD are doing investigations but I have to await the updates from the EMBD before I know what can be done.”