Fri | Dec 14, 2018

Residents marooned, crisis rises in Portland

Published:Tuesday | January 9, 2018 | 12:00 AMGareth Davis Sr/Gleaner Writer
A few residents making their way through the rugged terrain at Cornwall Barracks, while some men are busily chopping away tree limbs.
A resident washing her feet after climbing the muddy terrain at Cornwall Barracks
A few residents making their way through the rugged terrain at Cornwall Barracks, while some men are busily chopping away tree limbs.
A section of the blocked main road at Cornwall Barrack due to a massive landslide.
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Rio Grande Valley, Portland:

With expectant mothers unable to reach hospital to give birth, in addition to several other emergencies, a crisis situation is brewing among residents at Cornwall Barracks in the Rio Grande Valley of Portland, who, up to yesterday, were marooned.

The unease among the approximately 1,500 residents is getting more and more intense following three days of torrential rainfall, which left the roadway leading into Cornwall Barracks impassable to vehicular and pedestrian traffic after a massive landslide last week Friday morning.

"We are without food and other emergency supplies," said Wilfred Brown, a farmer and resident of that community.

"Only the brave at heart can traverse the rugged hilly terrain on foot, which is quite life-threatening, to get to the other side. It is the worst landslide that I have seen in this area in all my 68 years, and unless we get immediate assistance in clearing this dirt, someone could very well die. Pipelines have been dislocated, and, therefore, [failure to urgently] address this situation could result in persons falling ill."

On Sunday, a woman who was on the verge of giving birth had to be carried by young men from that community over a hill through mud and slippery stones to get to a vehicle some three miles away. The woman reportedly gave birth at hospital and is now recovering smoothly.

 

MUST BE A PRIORITY

 

Yesterday when The Gleaner visited the area, several persons, including a group of foreigners, were assisted by young men from the community with their luggage, as they, too, had to navigate the rugged and hilly terrain on foot to get to the other side, where a taxi was awaiting their arrival to transport them to the airport in Kingston.

Member of Parliament Dr Lynvale Bloomfield, who visited the area yesterday, spoke about the need for direct intervention by the Government into what he described as a crisis situation facing residents, including farmers.

"This has to be treated as a priority," said Bloomfield.

"Any emergency situation could spell more disaster for these residents, who are trapped in their community. The farmers are also hard-hit, as they are unable to get their produce to market to feed the people of this parish. Clearly, some high levels of engineering have to be done to correct this situation, as there is no alternative route available to the residents."

The lone alternative, a swinging bridge, was destroyed during heavy rainfall more than two years ago. And despite appeal from residents to have the bridge restored, nothing has been done.