Thursday 26 November, 2020

Days of rainfall cause misery, frustration, grief for many Jamaicans

The tragic scene of a major land slippage in Shooters Hill, East Rural St Andrew on Friday of last week.

The tragic scene of a major land slippage in Shooters Hill, East Rural St Andrew on Friday of last week.

Heavy rainfalls which affected the island and intensified on Thursday night through to Friday, resulted in feelings of misery, frustration, heartache and grief among citizens residing in especially St Thomas and East Rural St Andrew.

The feelings were front and centre as flood waters resulted in flooded houses and roadways, culminating in not only extensive damages, but also the tragic demise of a father and daughter in Shooters Hill, St Andrew.

The house shared by 42-year-old Romeo Leechman and his daughter, Saneeka, got covered in a mudslide caused by the heavy rains affecting that section of the island on Friday.

What followed next was extreme tragedy at the hands of ‘mother nature’, as the elder Leechman's body was found beneath a pile of rubble in the community on Friday.

A day later, the child’s body was likewise found buried deep below the rubble that swept through their home.

Prior to the latter discovery, the flames of hope burned optimistically, with community residents and Member of Parliament for East Rural St Andrew, Juliet Holness, banking on some miracle that would have allowed the Queen's High School student to be found alive.

Juliet Holness (File photo)

"Sadly this morning (Friday) the heavy rainfall caused a landslide that swept away a father and daughter in their home. Unfortunately, Mr Romeo Leechman passed away in this terrible tragedy and his daughter is still missing," Holness posted on Facebook that day.

"As firefighters continue the search for her, we are praying that she is found safe, and I extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Mr Leechman," the post added.

The search ended on Friday without much success at finding young Saneeka, but on Saturday morning at about 11:30 am, all hopes were dashed when the body of the 15-year-old was found and she was pronounced dead at the scene.

"The search for young Saneeka has sadly not ended the way we had hoped," Holness tweeted on Saturday as she hugged a loved one of the deceased teen.

It was reported that the father and daughter were reportedly asleep inside their house on Friday when the rain-induced landslide swept the wooden house in which they lived metres down a slope in a section of the community called ‘Toby's Gully’ or ‘Passion Gardens’.

The reactions to the death of the father and daughter came swiftly from social media users on various platforms.

One Twitter user shared: "The demise of two members of the Leechman family in Shooters Hill is yet another example of the poverty and dismal living conditions faced by blacks. Diseases, disasters, violence, hunger, unemployment and prostitution hit them the hardest."

Added another: "This is heart-breaking to say the least. Every time it rains it is destruction and tragedy for people in especially rural Jamaica. The authorities need to do better now. My condolences to the affected family."

Meanwhile, other sections of East Rural St Andrew were affected by the heavy downpours, including St Benedict Heights and sections of Harbour View.

 

In an expletives-laden post on Facebook on Friday night, a woman claiming to be a resident of St Benedict Heights said the flooding in the area had caused her to be frustrated, adding that her house was flooded.

"A neighbour yard mi have to deh now... We nah get no help when we flood out. We need help now man," a portion of the woman's post stated. 

In the aftermath of the flooding in sections of East Rural St Andrew, Kingston Mayor, Delroy Williams, tweeted on Saturday that work had started in the affected areas.

"Following heavy rains, the @ksamcorp (Kingston and St Andrew Corporation) has commenced clearing an area along the Bull Bay shoreline in the vicinity of Wickie Wackie and Copacabana. I will be doing assessments along with engineers of other affected areas throughout the day," Williams tweeted.

In a follow-up tweet, the mayor said: "We are assessing work being done by the @ksamcorp in collaboration with East Rural St Andrew MP @JulietHolness along low-lying and flood-prone areas of her constituency. We have cleared channels to allow the free flow of floodwater from communities near the ponds and shoreline."

Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Desmond McKenzie, was also expected to tour sections of East Rural St Andrew on Saturday, to get a first-hand assessment of the damages caused by heavy rains since late last week.

The heavy rainfall across the island, according to the Meteorological Service of Jamaica (Met Office), was due to a persistent trough of low pressure across the western Caribbean.

The Met Office said light to moderate and at times heavy showers and thunderstorms occurred across sections of most parishes, especially across eastern and south-central parishes. A flash flood watch was in effect for those parishes.

But as conditions eased on Saturday, it was clear that the Government is facing a hefty road repair bill.

The National Works Agency through its Facebook page, highlighted several affected roadways in St Andrew in a series of posts also on Saturday.

"The roadway from Papine to Lindos Gap is currently completely blocked by landslides, fallen rocks and trees," the NWA said, adding in another post that "We are responding to another major landslide that has come down on the Gordon Town Road in the vicinity of Craighead."

The agency also disclosed that "Cane River Road from the direction of Lindos Gap in East Rural St Andrew is currently blocked by landslides and stones."

Earlier on Friday, NWA said it had been working to clear the Shooter's Hill roadway, and promised to dispatch equipment to other critical locations in the Bull Bay area.

That corridor, the agency said, was affected by flooding, minor slippages and boulders falling onto the roadway.

Stephen Shaw (File photo)

But outside of St Andrew, the NWA had reported in media interviews that several roadways in St Thomas, St Catherine and Clarendon had been severely impacted by the onslaught of heavy rains since Thursday night.

"We had at least three pieces of heavy duty equipment working to ensure that access was retained and maintained between St Andrew and St Thomas, where we would have had a significant impact and still do because we have landslides that are impacting the road from Morant River Bridge to Potosi. The Windsor Forrest to Mahogany Vale road is also being impacted at Hagley’s Gap in the parish," NWA spokesman, Stephen Shaw, said on Friday.

Over in Clarendon, a blockage had impacted the roadway from Mocho to Frankfield.

In the meantime, the rainfall resulted in some residents in sections of St Thomas being affected by outages in their electrical supply, the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) reported on Friday.

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