Mon | Dec 5, 2016

Trouble looms once rains come

Published:Wednesday | July 30, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Cornel Bogle, Gleaner Intern

While most of Jamaica's authorities are focused on finding solutions to the current drought and water crisis, some experts are concerned about hazards that might emerge once the rains return.

Norman Harris, acting deputy commissioner at the Mines and Geology Division in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, has warned that the drought that has been affecting the island has made eastern parishes more susceptible to landslides.

Harris told The Gleaner that in light of recent wildfires, he would not be surprised if the return of heavy rainfall triggered landslides.

"If you have fires due to drought conditions, as well as the destruction of surrounding vegetation, it is likely that when you have severe rainfall, the slope will be more susceptible to landslides and erosion," he said.

According to Harris, the drought and recent bush fires have left rocks out in the open and have further degraded their quality.

"Our rocks tend to be highly fractured. As such, when they are exposed to the elements, landslides will occur," he added.

Harris said eastern parishes would be particularly vulnerable to landslides as the rock types in that section of the island are significantly weaker than those in other parts of the island because they are clay-rich rocks.

The steeper slopes of eastern parishes also make them more vulnerable.

HAPPENED BEFORE

This is not the first time a drought has led to conditions which could trigger destructive landslides in Jamaica.

Harris recalled that in 1999, Portland experienced rainfall that was not more than the normal level. However, there were a significant number of landslides because of drought conditions prior to intense rainfall.

Harris argued that once there is severe rainfall, the effects will be devastating if proper preparations are not made.

He called for an improvement in the island's drainage systems as well as other proactive measures to mitigate damage that might result from landslides.