West flood nightmare
Rains trigger chaos, road damage; householders fed up with clean-up bills
The National Works Agency (NWA) has begun to assess the damage to the road network in western Jamaica after sustained heavy rainfall lashed that section of the island between Sunday afternoon and yesterday morning, triggering widespread flooding and damage to infrastructure.
Several roads in St James, Hanover, and Westmoreland, including some which were recently rehabilitated, were rendered impassable either because of a build-up or debris or as a result of the road surface being eroded by floodwaters, which also damaged homes and farms in several communities.
Montego Bay Mayor Leeroy Williams was thankful that the St James Municipal Corporation did not have to activate any of its emergency shelters despite some homes being inundated.
“We have a crew down in the Unity Hall area, which has been badly affected in terms of debris on the roadway and we have dispatched heavy equipment to King Street area, which has been affected by a land slippage,” Williams said yesterday. “We are monitoring the situation and we are prepared to take whatever action we deem necessary.”
By yesterday evening, the blocked sections of the Unity Hall and Adelphi main roads were cleared, but were cleared by NWA work crews, while single-lane access was restored to the Cash Hill roadway in Hanover up to yesterday evening.
The North and South gullies – the hub of Montego Bay’s drainage system – were also near capacity as the result of the volume of water coming down from the Salt Spring, Green Pond, and Cornwall Courts communities.
In the early hours of the morning, floodwaters prevented commuters from accessing areas such as William, Princess, Union, Creek, and Upper Orange streets, where water rose as high as five feet in some sections.
Several other heavily used roadways in and around St James, including Lilliput to the Sangster International Airport thoroughfare, the Porto Bello to Orange road, the Sign Irwin main road in the vicinity of the FESCO Service Station, were either impassable or reduced to single lanes.
The worst affected were the Guava Walk and Unity Hall main roads, where large sections of the asphalt were peeled away, leaving large craters.
Several National Water Commission pipelines were also damaged.
Many workers and schoolchildren were not able to leave their communities and those who ventured out were stuck in traffic snarls, as motorists slowly navigated water-filled craters.
“Today would have been my first day back from vacation, but on seeing the condition after struggling to make my way to downtown Montego Bay, I know there was no way I was going to make it to my workplace in Hanover,” said one tourism worker, who decided to return to her Cornwall Courts home.
Clogged drains and a compromised sewerage system resulted in the flooding of some homes, with residents venting their anger at the National Housing Trust (NHT) and the NWA, which they complained have not been heeding their calls to address the long-standing problems.
“Except for one visit from a field officer from the NHT, our calls have largely been ignored,” said one householder. “After every major rain, we are usually left with a huge cleaning bill and items like carpets are usually rendered useless.”