Sun | Oct 21, 2018

No reports of falling stones, soil

Published:Sunday | May 24, 2015 | 12:00 AMChad Bryan
A ‘falling rocks’ road sign. The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management says it has received no reports of land slippage since the bush fires in Llandewey.
A bush fire, which was raging in Western St Thomas for over a week, threathened this house in Gordon Castle, Llandewey, St Thomas. The fire, which was believed to be caused by the unwise slash-and-burn practice, caused massive devastation in the surrounding areas of Richmond Gap, Orange Tree and Albion Mountain. Thousands of fruit trees, such as mangoes and ackees, were destroyed. Several goats also perished in the blaze.

The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) is reporting that there has been no land slippage following the recent bush fires in rural St Andrew, which have been followed by substantial rainfall.

"We have had no such reports from the parish coordinator," said Cheryl Nicholson, director of information and training at ODPEM.

Bush fires have a significant impact on the landscape, as they destroy the vegetation which plays a significant role in keeping the soil in place. As rainfall has followed the fires, the possibility of land slippage - a mass of rock and earth moving suddenly and quickly down a steep slope, according to Cambridge Dictionary - has increased.

In addition to the land being left bare, the rain softens the earth, which also gets much heavier than when it is dry.

Vegetation would help to reduce the risk of landslides by drawing moisture out of the ground and   into the roots of plants which hold the ground together. Therefore, the loss of forest cover due to fire has a destabilising effect on the soil.

In East Rural St Andrew, recent massive bush fires destroyed about 500 acres of coffee, resulting in losses of approximately $200 million. Farmers in parts of St Thomas have also suffered losses, as crops, including ackee and mango trees, and livestock were destroyed in the fires, which raged for nearly two weeks.

State minister in the agriculture ministry, Luther Buchanan, has said that coffee farmers would suffer $100 million in losses over a three-year period. He also said that farmers should desist from burning bush to clear land.