Stanleytown flood relief work to end soon
Permanent contract by end of month

By Leonard Gildarie
Stabroek News
June 9, 2000

Temporary work to prevent a recurrence of Sunday's heavy flooding at Stanleytown is expected to be completed within five days and tenders for a permanent defence are to be advertised by the end of this month.

This was the assurance given on Wednesday to residents of Stanleytown by Region Three Vice Chairman Ramenaught Bisram when a delegation led by Minister of Fisheries, Crops and Livestocks Satyadeow Sawh visited that area to assess Sunday's flood damage.

Bisram said that talks were underway with the World Bank for the financing of the project. He also denied claims that nothing had been done about the breach since it opened last month. He pointed out that relief work had been underway at the time of the flooding and continued after.

Outlining the plans in place for the temporary works being done, Bisram told the 50-odd residents at the La Retraite Primary School, that a river bank wall, higher than that of the current one, was currently being constructed to "catch any overtopping water from high tides." The water being caught in the area between the two walls, the vice-chairman explained, was expected to flow back into the river. These "temporary" works are due to be completed within five days.

Among some of the other measures in place were a spraying exercise on Wednesday afternoon to sanitise the area, the testing of tap water for any signs of water-borne diseases and visits by field audit officers of the regional administration to assess the actual damage to residents' properties. From this a report would be prepared and sent, along with a covering letter from the regional administration office to the Civil Defence Comnmission (CDC) for perusal and assessment of needs.

The minister in his short address disclosed that government officials were on a fan-out exercise countrywide to flood-hit areas to assess the situation.

Bisram said that a large number of persons went to his office on Tuesday to complain about the flooding. After talks a health team was immediately dispatched to the affected Stanleytown area. There were discussions on the flooded cemetery, toilets and other health related issues. The reports from the team indicated one case of diarrhoea, which was treated at home, and one case of skin infection.

The Vice Chairman pointed out that "everything comes" to the Regional Administration regardless if it falls under its purview or not.

Concerned residents rapping with the minister complained of salt water intrusion on their farmlands. Among the major concerns raised was who was going to compensate them for the damage to their electrical equipment, farms and fruit trees. Poultry farmers had also suffered severely with many residents losing hundreds of thousands dollars in livestock. One person wanted to know where he could go to get a replacement for his trees that died.

The residents described Sunday's flooding as one of the worst they could recall in recent years.

The residents called for long-term planning to help prevent a recurrence. There were also complaints that the children of the La Retraite Nursery School were being severely affected by constant inundation that led to many requests for transfers. Sunday's flooding had resulted in some two feet of water in the school.

The students are now being housed in the nearby primary school. Speaking with the people, the minister assured them the government was doing everything that it could, as was evidenced by the fact officials were currently visiting other areas.

He advised some of the persons gathered there that they could purchase their plants back from the one of the branches of the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI).

The visiting officials who included other members of the Regional Administration of Region 3, came in for some scathing criticism over the charge that nothing had been done since the breach occurred last month. Bisram vehemently denied this stating his administration had tried as much as possible to assist. He pointed out that on Tuesday he had responded to the few residents who had picketed in front of his office and had sent a team into the area. Surely this was a sign that his administration was helping, Bisram said.

He assured the residents that any medical problems associated with the floods will be treated "free of cost." He described the flooding as an "act of nature and of God."

Responding to questions on Wednesday about a letter in Stabroek News by James McAlister levelling accusations at the government over the failure to seal the six-week old breach at Stanleytown, Bisram said that works had been on-going at the time of the flooding and were continuing.

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