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Sandy Gully deaths could have been prevented - NWA

Published:Wednesday | October 13, 2010 | 12:00 AM
The house which was swept into the Sandy Park gully in Liguanea, St Andrew, on September 29. - Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer

The National Works Agency (NWA) has admitted that the Sandy Gully tragedy, which claimed the lives of six persons two weeks ago, might have been avoided if it had the money to repair obvious defects in the structure.

"We carry out routine inspections of the gully. We have a comprehensive list and we know where all the bad spots are and we know exactly all the solutions that we should put in place," NWA Director George Knight told a Gleaner Editors' Forum at the newspaper's North Street, central Kingston, offices yesterday.

No funds

The NWA had identified the defects but just did not have the funds to conduct the repairs, after spending billions of dollars to repair breaks in the gully in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Gustav in 2008.

Knight was supported by Works Minister Mike Henry, who noted that the Sandy Gully was built 60 years ago and was in need of repairs in some areas.

"We spent $2.4 billion after Gustav in restoring the Sandy Gully damage and everything we did stood up," Henry told those present at the forum.

Reinforcements held

According to Knight, those areas held because the NWA changed the stone gully wall to reinforced concrete during that repair project.

"After Gustav, we got some funding from the Caribbean Development Bank and we used that money to attend to the breaches we had then," he said.

"However, we had made an application for a phase two because the trend of failure of the Sandy Gully is that the floor of the gully or the invert will get breached, and immediately behind that the water will undermine the foundation of the wall, causing a failure."

He said the NWA's budget just could not support any further repairs to the gully last year.

"That is why (what is needed is) a dedicated fund with a seamless flow, which is what the JDIP (Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme) will ensure," Henry said. "If we had got that funding and if we did not have the gap (the repairs would have been done)."

It is estimated that the NWA will need $4.7 billion to effect the needed repairs to the gully.

Skeeta Young, her common-law husband George 'Willey' Bailey, Kevonie Bailey, Sidoney Bailey, Keniji Boyd and 11-year-old Brandy Fritz all died when their two-storey house collapsed after a section of the wall of the Sandy Gully gave way during the heavy rains associated with Tropical Storm Nicole.

Two other houses collapsed into the gully and several other premises close to the bank of the gully have since been abandoned because they appear on the verge of toppling over.