Food and water at last! - Residents rejoice for supplies after being trapped for a week
The smiles and shouts of jubilation were evident among residents at Bellevue in the Rio Grande Valley of Portland, who received much-needed food, water, sanitary items and emergency supplies, after being trapped in their community for more than a week.
The long-awaited arrival of the supplies to the more than 300 residents - who were fearing the worst after six days of torrential rainfall left them cut off from society in a community heavily dependent on farming - arrived by a Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) helicopter on Friday.
Among those arriving by the chopper were Daryl Vaz, minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for job creation and economic growth; a team of engineers from the National Works Agency (NWA) and the JDF; Councillor Benny White, and a representative from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MLSS).
"It is as bad as it looks on television," commented Vaz.
"We visited Bellevue by helicopter with the engineers to see how best we can tackle the breakaways expeditiously. We will be getting another front-end loader, whereby we will be tackling the breakaways from both ends, so that they can be cleared in a shorter time. We delivered toiletries, foodstuff, and bleach, so that the health and sanitation concerns can be tackled."
According to Vaz, who is also member of parliament for West Portland, the food will be distributed by the MLSS, and all those affected will benefit from the supplies that were delivered. He noted that the distribution will be carried out in a non-partisan manner, and cautioned those handling it to ensure that those affected are given immediate attention.
White, who is councillor for the Fellowship division, pointed out that one of the biggest challenges encountered by the residents was that of a shortage of drinking water, which was now resolved.
"Food and water is a necessity for humans," commented White. "It is quite clear that residents are happy, having received them. Our resources will now be directed to the clearing of blocked roadways, so as to allow easy access for residents to leave and re-enter the community by foot and public transport. Once this is done, electrical power can be restored in short order."
So far, some residents have taken it upon themselves to traverse the rugged terrain, which poses serious challenges and dangers to them, as they have to walk more than three miles in muddy and slippery conditions through the hills and valleys, while encountering precipice, gullies, and waterways littered with dislocated concrete pipes and fallen trees and debris.
Huge craters and piles of mud tell a frightening story of the devastation brought about by the recent torrential rainfall, which pelted sections of the Rio Grande Valley for six straight days, destroying crops, other forms of vegetation, and livestock at Berrydale, Ginger House, Comfort Castle, Millbank, Cornwall Barracks, Kent, Windsor, and Seaman's Valley.
The lone raft stand at Berrydale was also demolished after the Rio Grande overflowed its banks, sweeping in its path more than a hundred rafting vessels, while delivering a crippling blow to the parish's already fragile tourism sector, primarily Rio Grande rafting - Portland's premier tourist attraction and Jamaica's oldest.