Swansea residents forced to cope with days of murky floodwater
A woman wades through floodwaters to hang clothes on a line in Swansea, Clarendon on Monday.
It’s a messy situation for residents of Swansea in Clarendon. The recent heavy rains have left them having to wade through shin-high pungent water to go about their normal activities, which is a recurring problem whenever there is a heavy and persistent downpour.
For Sophia Morrison, it is a situation she has faced for the past 40 years living in the community. She is frustrated that the relevant authorities have done nothing, she said, to make their living condition even a bit more bearable during the rainy period.
“The experience bad ‘cause when the flood comes, we nuh have nun weh fi guh. Sometimes we deh pon the roadside stand up and sometimes a neighbour will put we up, and we sleep fi the night as we nuh have nuh weh else fi guh beside here suh.
“All mi pressure guh up. It bad. Mi start fret from the rain start fall ‘cause mi nuh know weh fi duh. Mi start fret bad bad. It affect me bad because sometimes mi can’t guh work, which is a week on and week off shop work. Mi haffi stay home because right now mi (should have) guh work this morning and mi couldn’t guh, suh mi haffi stay home,” Morrison told Loop News on Monday afternoon.
The flooding affects the northern side of the main road that goes through the community. This is the roadway that carries the majority of the traffic from the eastern end of the island to the western. While the southern side is on a higher level, the houses built on the northern side are below the level of the street, which causes water to settle.
According to Natasha Daley, the water takes approximately three days to subside after the rains, during which their survival depends on wading through the murky waters and, depending on the level, having to adjust their furniture in their houses.
“Whenever time the rain fall heavily, then this (flooding) happens. We have to walk through the water or go stay with we family or friends sometimes. We have to hoist up the bed dem pon block when the water reach certain level,” Daley said.
When the Loop News team visited the area Monday, many buildings were inundated along the stretch of roadway, with the water level at varying degrees. This included the New Apostolic Church and a number of residences.
Daley said it was almost two years since they have been faced with flooding, but she was expecting the worst this time around, with more rains predicted for the island, which was affected by the outer bands of Tropical Storm Zeta last weekend.
Daley also expressed concern about the displacement of goats which many people earn off in the farming community. She said the goats have to be moved from the pens and taken to homes of neighbours.
Meanwhile, Mayor of May Pen, Winston Maragh, said the residents' plight is due to the structure of the road, which was built decades ago, acting as a barrier preventing the flow of water from off the Mocho hills in the parish. He said with the land also below the road, it creates further problems.
Maragh said that once the water gets to the southern side, it can flow freely into the Milk River, Jacks Gully and all the natural drainage areas on that side of the road. He said the National Works Agency (NWA), which is in charge of the road, needs to build culverts to take the water to the other side.
Clarendon Flooding Zeta
The Mayor, however, said that part of the problem is that many informal settlers have captured lands and constructed houses on the northern side of the road, without the proper approval from the municipal council. Maragh said that the situation has persisted even after the council passed a resolution more than 25 years ago that those who are building in low lying areas must construct the floor no less than three feet above ground level.
“People need to look at all these dangers for themselves too. Yes, they need to, because they know that it’s low lying area, they know that it’s a flood-prone area but at the same time they continue to build below the road level.
“So this is where we are going to be more stringent on them. I can’t speak for those who were before my time, but definitely, we are going to be more stringent on people and how they build and where they build,” Maragh said.