Too early to call

National Works Agency (NWA) and Jamaica Public Service (JPS) said on Saturday afternoon that it was way too early to attach a monetary value to damage associated with the torrential rainfall that the island experienced between Wednesday and Friday night.

Communications manager at the NWA, Stephen Shaw, told the Jamaica Observer on Saturday that rural St Andrew and St Thomas were badly impacted compared to other parishes.

“The areas impacted have been affected by landslides, fallen trees, and we had areas that were flooded islandwide. The assessment continues. We will have a better idea of the cost, in terms of damage, in the week,” Shaw explained.

Winsome Callum, director of corporate communications at JPS, said on Saturday that the utility company was not in a position to say definitively what the cost of damage to the network was.

JPS issued a press release on Saturday, which stated that teams were continuing efforts to restore supply to customers affected by power outages caused by the recent persistent heavy rain. The release said that some customers lost supply as the electricity grid was negatively impacted by landslides, trees falling on lines, and dislocated poles.

“While several communities across the island have been affected, the majority of customers currently without electricity are in the parishes of Kingston and St Andrew and St Catherine. JPS is projecting that most of these customers will have their service restored by the end of the day. However, it may take longer to get to some areas because of challenging terrain and limited access.

“Several communities, particularly in rural St Andrew, have been affected by widespread landslides which are restricting access and slowing down restoration efforts. JPS is reminding members of the public to stay away from fallen poles and broken power lines and to take every precaution to keep themselves and family members safe. Outage reports can be made via the JPS mobile app or by calling 888-225-5577 (Flow) or 888-935-5577,” the release from JPS said.

On Saturday, downed utility poles and blocked roads were the main feature in some communities, such as Jack’s Hill, St Andrew.

According to Jack’s Hill resident Billy Bones, the community was battered by the rain.

“We get a lick. The road mash up, a pure landslide, and some people house tear weh at a road named 13th Street. Light post drop down and we have no light. From the rain start, the transformer lick out. All tourist trapped up here,” he said, pointing to downed trees and debris that blocked many sections of the roadway from Skyline Drive to Jack’s Hill Road.

Elder farmer Gladstone Clarke said that he has lived in the community of Jack’s Hills for multiple decades and it was the first he was seeing so many landslides and roads being blocked by debris.

“We get a whole heap a blockage, as you see. Around on my road there is landslide. Further around from there water dig up the road. Even vehicles got trapped around by City View. I cultivate plantain, gungo peas, and yam. I lost three roots of plantains so far, based on my assessment.

“I am here from 1980 and it is the first time I am experiencing this kind of blockage. I never experienced that before. I don’t know if it happened and I don’t see, but it’s the first. I am wondering if it was because of the earth tremor,” Clarke said in reference to the recent magnitude-5.6 earthquake that Jamaica experienced.

Another resident, Richie, emerged from his house with a gas cylinder and told the Sunday Observer that he changed his mind when he realised the road was blocked.

“I was planning to go to Barbican side to get some cooking gas, but I can’t right now because the road is blocked. I have to just wait until it is clear. Luckily, I have another cylinder with a little bit of gas in it, so I can cook until the road is clear,” Richie said.

According to Benedict Parks, a resident of 13th Street, debris from a landslide impacted his yard and damaged some of his crops.

In Gordon Town and Mavis Bank there were also landslides and blocked roads.

On Thursday, during a roving exercise by the Observer in Kingston and St Andrew, there were many roads that were flooded, including Waltham Park Road.

In the Bog Walk Gorge in St Catherine, residents complained that the authorities had failed to inform them that the gorge would be closed, citing that the closure always keeps people in or out of the community whenever it rained.

They complained that they had business to conduct, even when it rained, and begged for the gates leading into the gorge to be removed and placed at a more convenient spot that will allow them access to their homes.

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 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 pass 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 out that at no time from Thursday to Friday afternoon did the river cover Flat Bridge or any road in the gorge.