Lifeline for raftsmen - Ministry grants financial assistance after flood destroys most vessels
Raft Captains assigned to Rio Grande Rafting, Portland's premier tourist's attraction site, who were battered following three days of torrential rainfall and flooding, are now in a jubilant mood after receiving 73 cheques valued at $10,000 each.
The cheques were handed out yesterday by tourism minister Edmund Bartlett and West Portland Member of Parliament (MP) Daryl Vaz.
The monetary assistance comes in the wake of a hefty loss suffered by the men, whose rafts were washed away by the nearby Rio Grande during three days of intense torrential rainfall, which pounded the eastern parish last week, resulting in widescale flooding in the Rio Grande Valley.
In handing over the cheques, Bartlett commended the raftsmen for what he described as their commitment and hard work in the tourism industry, which, according to him, is now the highest foreign exchange earner for Jamaica.
"Rafting on the Rio Grande continues to be the number-one desired experience for visitors," commented Bartlett.
He continued, "Today, I am handing out these cheques, so as to provide you with some financial assistance, in ensuring that you are able to rebuild your raft and to get your business back up and running. I am aware that what you are receiving might not be enough; however it will, at least, help to get you back on your feet. MP Vaz is really the man driving this initiative, and he has insisted that assistance must be provided to you all."
... 95 per cent of rafts washed away by Rio Grande
Approximately 95 per cent of the rafting vessels were either washed away or destroyed by the nearby Rio Grande between Friday and Saturday of last week.
Meanwhile, Vaz told the raftsmen that based on a discussion with Bartlett, a garage will be built for them (raft captains) to store their rafting vessels, so as to protect their equipment from being washed away or damaged in the event of any future flooding.
"Anyone that knows me also know that when it comes on to Portland, I am very passionate," Vaz said.
He added, "Whenever there is something that affects the people of this parish, you know that there is a MP and a minister who will respond to your plights in a timely manner and will treat your issues as a priority. You are a hard-working, honest, and a patriotic set of people."
President of the Raft Captains Association Lawrence Chisholm said that it was the third time in three years that they are receiving financial assistance from the two government ministers.
He noted that the money would go a far way in assisting them to rebuild their rafts.