PEOPLE living in the area of Bog Walk Gorge from Dam Head to Flat Bridge are furious, claiming on Friday that their lives are severely impacted as they are locked in whenever the floodgates are closed to prevent vehicular access through the gorge during heavy rain.
The residents said Friday that when authorities padlock the gates leading into the gorge it prevents them from moving quickly in and out in case of emergencies or if they have business to conduct.
Sections of Jamaica were battered with heavy showers on Thursday and Friday as a severe weather system passed over the island, causing several rivers — including the Rio Cobre — to rise and forcing the authorities to close off access to Flat Bridge, which is the main road to get to Bog Walk, Linstead, and other communities as well as St Catherine capital of Spanish Town, travelling in the other direction.
But residents insisted that they are being badly inconvenienced when the floodgates are closed, and would like the authorities to listen to their cries.
Althea Cole, who said she is one of the divers at the gorge who helps to save people if vehicles plunge into the Rio Cobre, claimed that the authorities do not consult with residents whenever they are going to close the floodgates.
“Whenever it is raining [and the river is rising] they just pass back and lock the gate. More time we are in problems because if you are coming from town, majority of the times they don’t allow the taxis to come in.
“As you can see, the gate is all the way behind where we are. Allowing us from Dam Head to this spot in the gorge is fine, we are good with that, but they don’t inform us any at all when they are going to close it. The water only comes up here on the road when the water is in the ‘pinka form’. When I say pinka form, it is when you look straight down the road and it’s just river [as you cannot see Flat Bridge]. It came straight through my shop in 2017. At different points of the road it catches you from ankle to neck; that is just to show you how heavy the water can get. It can come that way at times,” said Cole.
“But right now the rain is just drizzling — a must the gully water from the hillside swell up the river like this. I got to my shop approximately 12 minutes after six this morning and shortly after, I see a Jeep passed me and by the time I look, the gate is closed. They don’t have any conscience, any at all. It is useless to talk,” a frustrated Cole said, pointing that at no point in time from Thursday to Friday afternoon did the river cover Flat Bridge or any road at all in the gorge.
According to her, when the gates were being erected around 2013 to 2014 the people who live in the gorge were surprised.
“When they were going to put the gate up there, we were not informed. We just walk past and said to ourselves, ‘A weh dem a do?’ They have a gate at Dam Head and one when you go to Kent Village at the old pump house, and one is at Bog Walk. To my own knowledge, people are always in the dam working,” she said.
“I think they should leave the key for the Dam Head gate with the people at the dam. People who live from here to near Flat Bridge would be able to come in with a taxi. What if we get sick, how it go? I live half a mile from the dam where the gate is padlocked. They don’t have principle! And we talk this every year and it’s the same thing. People live here who have babies and have to go to and from. I deal with principle. If you don’t have it for me, one day I am going to lose it for you,” Cole said.
One man, who was clearly upset after unpacking 30 crates of ackee from his minibus and passing them under the gate at Dam Head to a man on the other side of the gate, said that he has had to suffer losses many times when the authorities lock the gates.
“They gave the firefighters the keys for the gate because they don’t want people to pass and go around to the bridge, but we don’t live at the bridge. People do business in the area so how can you lock the gate and go away with the key? People are paying tax in this country. Kent Village has two gates, why we can’t get two gates right down here?
“This man [whom I asked to carry the ackees] is my co-worker. I was lucky to come out here and see him before he went to the ackee factory. That is how I got help to move my produce, otherwise I would have to stay here for the whole day. When the ackee spoil, who is going to pay us? They say they are trying to prevent motorists from dropping off the bridge but they are preventing us from eating our food. When our children don’t get an education they have to run behind politicians to get a small amount of money. They think we are fools,” the resident said.