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The day Aleppo caved in - Residents remember how earth shift damaged houses, unearthed graves

Published:Sunday | May 17, 2020 | 8:54 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer

It has been more than a decade since two days of torrential rainfall sank the road connecting Aleppo Heights and Cromwell Land in St Mary.

The road was fully rehabilitated by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund in partnership with the Aleppo Citizens’ Association only a few years before.

The long-term impact for residents is an alternative route, but for Nathan Tobon and at least three other families, they lost their home.

At present, the 57-year-old is the only home owner remaining in the community – the others have either relocated or are deceased.

The structure of Tobon’s three-bedroom house became compromised, making it uninhabitable.

“My house mash up in the breakaway, and I got nothing out of it up till today. Nothing was wrong with the land at the time we built it there,” he lamented.

The ruins of the asphalt road and houses tell a story he knows too well.

“It was about 2 o’clock the Wednesday morning. I heard a sound, and when I got up and look out, mi see some electric light start to flash and mi hear a likkle sound deh pan ‘woo’, and that was when the place start to cave in,” he recalled.


The massive land slippage removed approximately 20 metres of road and left nearly half the community without electricity.

He said that about three days after the initial break, the roadway continued to collapse and graves on his family’s burial plot were also unearthed.

Esmeralda Adjmul, a resident of more than 50 years, told The Gleaner that from her observations, water has not settled in the area since the collapse.

“The road can fix back. From here to Marymount school is half-mile, and when yuh take the route from here and guh round Clonmel, it’s about four miles, and it cost the children more money,” she explained.

Simon Mitchell, professor of sedimentary geology at The University of the West Indies, Mona, said that the area lies on a series of rocks that form the Richmond formation.

“It consists of a series of shales and sandstones, and that basically means the rocks are very weak, so anywhere they are tilted on a slope, they always have the potential to fail,” he said.

Whether the lands can again be built on would be dependent on the results of a proper geotechnical investigation.

But Port Maria Mayor Richard Creary said on Monday that a preliminary study by the Mines and Geology Division showed that the area was unstable.

“In order to have that road put back, it would take probably the entire budget of the corporation,” said Creary.

“It is not something we could undertake, but thankfully, the earth has not moved since.”