Rains wreak havoc

THE National Works Agency (NWA) was busy Friday clearing blocked roads as heavy rains from a severe weather system caused flooding and landslides in a number of areas, forcing several businesses and government agencies to close early and send home staff.

The agency said it had to deal with more than 30 incidents involving issues such as fallen rocks, landslides, flooding, scoured surfaces, and breakaways.

NWA Manager of Communication and Customer Services Stephen Shaw said the bulk of the incidents were in the parishes of St Andrew, St Catherine, Portland and St Thomas.

In the meantime, Jamaicans were warned to brace for more heavy rains and flooding into the weekend, even with lifting of the tropical storm watch for Jamaica on Friday afternoon.

The Meteorological Service of Jamaica (Met Service), in a release on Friday, said the poorly organised weather system continues to be a significant rainfall producer and, due to soil saturation, flooding is likely to continue.

“This could result in landslides in some areas, mainly over southern and eastern parishes,” the Met Service said.

It said a flash flood warning remained in effect for low-lying and flood-prone areas of Westmoreland, St Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon, St Catherine, Kingston, St Andrew, St Thomas, Portland and St Mary.

This, the Met Service said, means that flooding has been observed or will occur shortly. In addition, a flash flood watch remained in effect for other low-lying and flood-prone areas of the island until 5:00 Saturday morning.

On the forecast track, the system was expected to move across Jamaica by last night and over south-eastern Cuba, the southeastern section of The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands on Saturday, the Met Service said.

Small craft operators, including fishers from the cays and banks were asked to remain in safe harbour until wind and sea conditions returned to normal.

Meanwhile, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) advised the public to avoid flooded waterways — fords, gullies, streams or rivers — either on foot or in vehicles.

The agency also urged people to avoid areas with damaged roadways, as well as areas prone to landslides and flooding. It said that in case of extensive rainfall, people should avoid going on the road except when absolutely necessary.

According to the NWA, among the roads in St Andrew that remained impassable last night were the corridors from Cooperage to Guava Ridge, Papine to Redlight, and the Chesterfield Road.

Shaw said that Chesterfield Road, near Seaview Gardens, was closed Friday afternoon as it posed serious dangers to motorists due to a scoured-out, excavated area.

Landslides also impacted the roads from Cooperage to Guava Ridge, and from Papine to Redlight.

In St Thomas the main road from Bethel to Richmond Vale was impassable up to last evening. This corridor, which was previously reduced to single-lane traffic, suffered further erosion, rendering it impassable. Landslides also blocked the main road from Bowden to Old Pera Road, while fallen trees blocked the main road from Port Morant to Pleasant Hill.

In Portland the NWA team reopened the main road from Fellowship to Berrydale, but main roads from Port Antonio to Nunsuch, Wakefield to Hardwar Gap, and Hectors River to Muirton remained impassable last night.

Shaw said the NWA was making progress with roads in St Catherine and that work was underway to reopen the main roads from Zion Hill Bridge to Parks Road and Bartons to Ginger Ridge, which were affected by landslides. However, the Old Harbour to Bartons road was impassable as water from Big Pond overflowed onto the road.

Also in St Catherine, the Bog Walk Gorge was closed, so too was the Spanish Town to Port Henderson Road, while Bernard Lodge Road suffered heavy flooding. The road to Point Hill as well as the one to Above Rocks were blocked due to landslides.

The NWA said while it made efforts to reopen other affected corridors for people to gain access to their communities, these attempts were stymied by the continuous rainfall, and stated that the safety of the work crews must be assured.

And, ODPEM advised people to ensure that all important documents are secured in plastic bags or waterproof containers. In addition, all electrical, power, gas and water supplies in areas that are in immediate danger from flooding should be turned off.