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A disaster waiting to happen

Published:Sunday | October 10, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Thelma Gentles is a picture of worry as the Hope River threatens to take her home of over 50 years. - Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer
Precariously perched! Three of a series of houses located on the bank of the Hope River, which runs through the communities of Kintyre and Tavern in St Andrew. - Ian Allen/Staff Photographer

Arthur Hall, Senior Gleaner Writer

For more than 50 years, Thelma Gentles has lived on Hope River Street in Kintyre, St Andrew. For most of that time, the Hope River has been a friendly neighbour, providing a barely discernible calming whisper at nights or the occasional roar during weather systems.

But since Tropical Storm Gustav in 2008, the Hope River has become a mortal enemy, swallowing the homes of several of her neighbours and now taking aim at the place she has called home since "the time of Daddy (National Hero Norman Washington) Manley".

"People see my house about to collapse in the river and say is my fault to go live on river bank, but when me build my house here me was very far from the river," Gentles told The Sunday Gleaner.

"When I was building this house there was a big space at the back far from the river. Even the contractor told me why I did not use up the space, and me ask him suppose the river bruck its bank, and him say me would not live to see that," the 84-year-old Gentles said with a chuckle, as she pointed to her house now precariously perched on the edge of a steep drop to the river.

"Now me only sorry say him dead and him not seeing this," added Gentles.

Backyard, fruit trees gone

She said when her house was first built there was more than 50 feet of backyard with several fruit trees which have since been taken by the river.

"Now me can't sleep at nights. Every sound me hear me think a the house a go down. All me want is help fi move from here. If the rain continue like this nothing will be left up here. Unno can't get them to move me?" Gentles asked with despair etched across her face.

It was a similar story for Sophia Salmon, whose house at Lot 210 Hope River Street was swallowed by the river minutes before The Sunday Gleaner team arrived last Friday.

"Is over 33 years my family live here. My grandmother buy the land and we pay taxes, is not no capture land on the river edge," Salmon said, equally upset about the allegations as she was about losing all her furniture and appliances.

"Ivan, Emily and the other storm them never trouble we. Is from Gustav that the river bank start bruk way and the house dem start collapse," said Salmon.

She also appealed to the authorities to relocate persons who built their houses on what they believed then was a solid foundation, but what they now accept is a disaster waiting to happen.

In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Gustav, the Government had indicated an intention to relocate some residents of Kintyre, the neighbouring community of Tavern and other flood-threatened communities to lands in West Albion in St Thomas.

That move is being resisted by some persons who argue that the area does not have the infrastructure to support the 179 families slated to be relocated there.