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….some residents flee homes in 13 ft high floods
By Naomi Marshall
The normal lives of Kwakwani residents have been severely disrupted for the past 11 days due to the rapid rise of floodwaters.
The community located in Upper Berbice of Region 10 has suffered damage to properties, destruction of crops, loss of livestock, damage to infrastructure, disruption of businesses and even social activities, and the people are even at risk of contracting water-borne diseases.
In an interview with Village Voice News, Regional Councilor based in Kwakwani, Elroy Adolph related that the Kwakwani Waterfront area now has flood-water as high as 13 feet, showing a five feet increase from eleven days ago when 8 feet of flood water was recorded.
Thus far, this is the second highest level the flood-water has ever been at in Kwakwani’s history, with the highest level being recorded in 1948.
Adolph said that the natural disaster has directly and indirectly affected approximately 5000 persons, since the Waterfront area is the entrance and exit point of Kwakwani, and has caused some 200 persons to evacuate their homes and seek refuge at families whose houses are on high land or at shelters.
According to Adolph, the Kwakwani Primary School and Kwakwani Secondary School Hostel are being used as shelters for residents who were forced to leave their homes, some of which are covered by the flood-water, while others are almost covered.
Residents of Kwakwani have been receiving assistance from the Central Government, the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), Regional Ten’s Regional Democratic Council (RDC), the Linden Mayor and Town Council, the religious community and the private sector, among others.
Adolph stated that the residents of Kwakwani are immensely appreciative of the assistance they have been receiving from organisations and individuals, and he also thanked everyone who are supporting the community in a time like this.
President Irfaan Ali visited the community on May 29, as part of his on-the-ground flood assessment of the countrywide flooding situation. President Ali listened to the concerns of scores of residents whose homes and farmlands are inundated due to persistent rainfall over the last week, a release from the Office of the President said.
“The President reassured the residents that his Government, working with all stakeholders, including the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), will ensure that food, water and health supplies are provided,” the OP release added.
The CDC has since distributed over 1000 food hampers and 1000 cleaning hampers to the community of Kwakwani, among other items.
Other communities within Region 10 affected by flooding are, Aroima, Malali, Morrotaro, River’s View, Rainbow city, Old Kara Kara, Silvertown and First, Second and Third Ally.
In a Facebook statement, Member of Parliament, Jermaine Figueira noted that the Regional Officials of Region 10 have created a team that is organising a “Massive Relief Programme” which will aid communities affected by flooding in the region.
He noted that the team consists of the Regional Chairman, Deron Adams; Vice Chairman, Douglas Gittens; Mayor of Linden, Waneka Arindell; Regional Commander, Hugh Winter; the Linden Chamber of Commerce, Regional Members of Parliament, representatives of the religious community, representatives of the Leader of the Opposition, Non-governmental organisations and persons in the diaspora.
“We (the team) will embark on using the tried and tested method identified, implemented and fashioned by our founder leader and former President, Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham “Self Help”,” Figueira noted.
Additionally, he expressed “while it is the government’s responsibility to help and bring relief with “our taxpayers monies”, we can no longer sit back and watch our lives destroyed waiting on this racist, discriminatory, oppressive and selectively caring regime to act. We must take matters into our own hands and act to save ourselves.”
Meanwhile, in a virtual press conference, the Regional Chairman of Region 10, Deron Adams called on the government to activate a “National Flood Relief Task Force” consisting of key entities, such as health and environmental organisations, that will partner to find solutions that will bring all-round relief to the flood affected areas.
Adams also pled with the government to give assistant grants to persons directly affected by the flood to help with the recovery process.
“The flood has negatively impacted the economic, social and physical wellbeing of our people. We (RDC) have been getting calls that persons have already utilised their personal funding which has been exhausted. We are hit by a pandemic and now this flooding so assistance via grants is timely,” Adams posited.
Adams’ hope is that Central Government will work directly with the RDC and affective communities throughout the flood-recovery process to ensure that the concerns of residents are addressed.
In an interview with Village Voice News, Vice Chairman of Region 10, Douglas Gittens stated that the flood in Kwakwani is a result of heavy rain fall over the past weeks which caused a rise in the water level of the Upper Berbice River situated nearby Kwakwani.
According to Douglas, the communities have been experiencing floodwater at low levels since April of this year. However, on Thursday, May 27, 2021 the water began to raise rapidly and has not gone down since.
During a telephone interview, resident of Kwakwani, Loreen Austin related that the flood is affecting her gravely since more than half of her two-story house is covered in water.
Austin, a resident of the community for 43 years said, “it affecting me a whole lot because normally I do cooking as business and my whole downstairs in water which is where the kitchen is and I do not know if my freezers will last because I see the two freezers floating”.
Additionally, Austin noted that the residents were offered lands away from the river in the past by the government but persons were reluctant to relocate because they had already built houses and a life at the waterfront.
However, it seems as though the residents have had enough and is ready to relocate.
“On behalf of the residents of Kwakwani waterfront, I know in the past they have given out house lots but maybe persons did not take it so serious then. But I was talking to some other residents and we were saying that we would be glad if the government can come and open a new scheme or give out land where we can go away from the water,” Austin said.
Resident of Kwakwani, Tonesha Rogers and her family of seven was forced to evacuate their one-story house that has been covered by the floodwater. In seeing that the water was raising rapidly, the family attempted to remove some of the appliances and furniture from the house.
However, upon returning to the house for the remaining items, the Rogers family realised that their house was almost covered in water which prevented them from getting everything out of the house.
The Guyana Hydro-meteorological Service has indicated that the frequent rain fall may not end until mid-July/August.