Mon | Sep 25, 2017

Rio Grande raftsmen take a beating, 80 per cent of vessels destroyed by heavy rains

Published:Wednesday | April 27, 2016 | 4:42 PM
A raft captain tries to salvage pieces of bamboo found on the banks of the Rio Grande.
A raft captain constructs a new raft.
President of the Raft Vendors Association, Lawrence Chisholm.
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Gareth Davis Sr, Gleaner Writer

BERRYDALE, Portland:
Portland’s premiere tourist attraction, Rio Grande Rafting, has been plunged into turmoil following last week's heavy rains, which destroyed approximately 80 per cent of rafting vessels owned by raft captains.

The bamboo rafts, which are usually docked along the beach area of the Rio Grande, and in some instances along the lawns of the nearby terminal building, were washed away during more than four days of torrential rainfall.

During the showers, the violent rising waters of the Rio Grande cleared nearly everything in its path including livestock, banana trees, yams, cabbage, dasheen, and other farm produce, along with a majority of the rafts.   

“Our livelihood is now under serious threat," said Lawrence Chisholm president of the Rafts Captain Association.

“We lost about 80 per cent of our vessels. The river is where we earn our livelihood from, but it can also be very unkind to us, especially during heavy rainfall. We have 77 raft captains, and each of them owned at least two rafts. We are appealing to the tourism minister for help, as we are now faced with a crisis situation," he added.

The Gleaner visited the Berrydale Raft Stand yesterday and saw fewer than 30 rafting vessels, which is a far cry from the approximately 150 that were spotted in January during a visit to that area.