Wai Wais leave Gunns Strip
Help needed for resettlement
Corentyne logging area also flooded

By Samantha Alleyne
Stabroek News
June 9, 2000

The residents of Gunns Strip have given in. In the face of continued rainfall and rising flood waters they have decided to relocate to another area some three miles up the Essequibo River, according to Deputy Chairman of Region Nine, Vincent Henry.

The Wai Wai Amerindian village, which is located some 80 miles from Aishalton is experiencing the worst flood in its 13 years at Gunns Strip. The area is among several now under water in six of the ten regions of the country.

The resettlement of the Wai Wais was confirmed yesterday by Head of the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), Major Ivan Alert. Alert commented that the moving of the residents would necessitate much more relief work.

Speaking to Stabroek News Henry said that although the entire village had not been flooded the 190 villagers were not comfortable with their settlement being a island due to the rains. He said the new area, Amasakkinari, was just a short distance away from an existing airstrip in the area. "The fact that the village has been reduced to a mere island is not encouraging," Henry said.

He said that the villagers have food for the next two weeks, but it was expected that more relief from the CDC will be dispatched to the area shortly. However, he said, since most of the farms were destroyed by the flood waters, the residents are now seeking farine. Farine, which is made from cassava, is the villagers' main staple. Henry said that though not all of the farms were under water, because of the constant rain and the soaking of the area the cassavas have begun to rot.

The villagers are using boats to move their belongings, which, in some cases, include their houses. And the Guyana Red Cross Society (GRCS) has launched an appeal to assist in the relocation of the Wai Wais. GRCS said residents are in need of #40 lubricating oil for chainsaws, gasolene, chainsaws, hinges, bolts and nuts, 40x20 galvanised sheets and 100 sacks of cement. Persons interested in donating materials can contact the GRCS on telephone numbers 65174 or 60384. Cash donations can be made to the GRCS Disaster Fund account #653 484 6 at the National Bank for Industry and Commerce, a GRCS release said.

The moving will create a slight difficulty for the children of school age since initially they will have to paddle back and forth to school because there is no school building in the new area. But the school building and the health centre structure would be dismantled shortly and moved to the new village.

Meanwhile, as the rains continue the list of areas affected by flooding gets longer. The latest one is a logging community on the left bank of the Upper Corentyne River.

According to Mootoo Singh, one of the directors of Ganesh Singh & Brothers Logging Company, the rising water is causing severe damage in the area.

In a telephone interview with this newspaper yesterday, Singh said that the area is now under many feet of water. Equipment and machinery have been destroyed and logs have floated away. He said that the roads in the area are under ten feet of water.

While the area did not really have a large population, Singh said that some Amerindians who work with loggers in the area had their homes on the sites and these were almost covered by water. He said that some people are now living on their roofs to escape the ever climbing water.

The man said that there were about 13 logging enterprises in the area and they had all experienced losses. He said that in the 50 years of his company's existence, this was the first time the area had experienced such flooding.

According to Singh, his company had recorded an estimated $20 million in losses and this figure will rise if the flooding continues. He said that the Corentyne River had overflowed its bank.

Follow the goings-on in Guyana
in Guyana Today