Weather-battered St Thomas communities left reeling

FROM Ramble District through the hills of Cedar Valley on to Trinityville and Font Hill in St Thomas, weather-battered residents have been left to navigate impassable roads and scramble for potable water. They have cobbled together temporary solutions, but the challenges they face are hard to deny.

Boulders brought by landslides blocked the Llandewey to Ramble road, while the Trinityville to Morant Bay main road was impassable on Tuesday, leaving residents to brave sections of the Morant River in Font Hill. Navigating the body of water is a tricky task as the deluge brought by Tropical Storm Eta over the weekend destroyed fording installed as a temporary replacement of the Font Hill Bridge.

Residents complained that the bridge was demolished earlier this year by workmen tasked with widening the roadway.

“The problem is that the contractors who come here are not taking the advice of the residents. Them come and tear down the bridge in February saying them a go widen the road. Them come and say they are going to build a bigger bridge but them never need fi destroy the bridge because it was a good bridge,” Sherod Gordon, a school bus driver and resident of Trinityville told the Jamaica Observer.

Gordon insisted that those behind the destruction of the bridge had shown poor judgement. He pointed out that, over the years, the structure had withstood the impact of storms and hurricanes.

“So many storms come and go and pass it by, and the river don’t affect it,” he said.

His pivot to taxi operator, necessary after schools shuttered their doors and his school bus driving services were no longer needed, is now threatened by blocked roads.

Since the closure of schools in March, he has been operating a route taxi from Trinityville to Morant Bay to replace his lost income.

“School is out and I was doing a little taxi operation on the side. But right now everything get stall. I can’t go forward or backward,” said Gordon. He was also concerned that the Trinityville Health Centre had remained closed since Monday as staff are not able to access the community.

Meanwhile, farmers, who had already been dealt a big blow by the demolition of the bridge in February, are now struggling to cope with the destruction of the fording.

At around midday on Tuesday, Cedar Valley resident Lechan Edwards, who was seen manning a truck loaded with green bananas, told the Observer that he had been waiting for the fording to be cleared since 8:00 am.

“The bananas supposed to reach town by now, but mi can’t move,” Edwards lamented.

“It’s better I just wait than turn back because is from [Monday] I was supposed to deliver them. But mi think this would a clear up by now,” he added.

Craig Smith, another farmer who spoke with the Observer, explained that floodwaters had destroyed his crop of gungo peas and sorrel for the upcoming Yuletide season, a loss which he said he was taking in stride.

“Mi have fi just move on and do what I can do for right now,” he said.

As he spoke, he was busy helping people across a narrow makeshift bridge. It consisted of a wooden ladder and a plank of lumber perched on huge stones, and flimsy-looking side rails.

“Me and some youth build a little bridge because we know people a guh need help fi cross the river. Wi just collect a little $100 or $50 and if them nuh have it wi allow them fi cross same way,” Smith said.

Accessing the main road was the problem over in Ramble District, where soil erosion had all but destroyed a dirt track used by residents living near a shallow section of the Yallahs River.

“Di people them nuh have anywhere fi walk,” said Kip Clarke, an area resident who also lamented the loss of income at his River-side lounge establishment.

And though water seems to be everywhere in the flooded community, residents do not have enough to drink.

Women and children have been harnessing water from heavy streams coming from the rocky terrain, gathering to wash items of clothing.

“This water is coming from way up in the hills. Some of it is actually coming up from the earth,” Nikki Davis, a resident of Llandewey told the Observer.

“This is how it stay whenever the rain fall,” she added, pointing to a steady stream of water filling her pan of clothes.

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