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On Monday exceptionally high winds wreaked havoc to houses in the Bareroot and Dazzle housing schemes on the East Coast Demerara causing major dislocation to families and damages to properties. Roofs of several houses were completely or partially blown off, walls were damaged and homes completely destroyed. Debris was blown through the air as far as two villages away.
Given the severity of the damage, the A Partnership For National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC), in a statement released this morning, is calling on the government to undertake a damage assessment and offer financial and other support to affected families to ensure they can continue their normal lives.
It was pointed out by the Opposition that after the storm no government official visited the area. Interim relief was provided to affected residents by public spirited citizens and the Opposition. Some residents were provided tarpaulins to cover damaged roofs and exposed items. Some had sought shelter in the homes of loved ones and benevolent neighbours.
With natural disasters in Guyana, the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) is usually mobilised into action. As per its website its functions include “facilitating the implementation of disaster management measures for the purpose of emergency relief and support, for instance the National Emergency Shelter Standards directs all Regions on the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the management of all emergency shelters.”
The APNU+ AFC contends that given the gravity of the situation it should be treated as “an emergency” and the government should “launch urgent response and rescue efforts to ensure that affected families can immediately dwell in comfort and safety.”
Affected residents need assistance in recovering their homes and belongings. Families have lost beds, furniture, electrical equipment, and other household items, and suffer physical injuries. The Opposition, in its statement, said the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Aubrey Norton and team intervened and got medical attention for the injured. Victims are also dealing with emotional trauma. This would necessitate another form of intervention such as counselling.
The Opposition has also pointed out, given that Guyana has become prone to disasters of this nature, it becomes imperative that the government put in place “a natural disaster preparedness, response and recovery plan…designed with the understanding that natural disasters in Guyana extend beyond floods.” Local natural disasters also include localised storms and squalls, droughts and earth tremors, said the Opposition and “planners must also recognise that some disasters are rapid in their onset[,] they strike quickly or without warning.”
A caring and competent government must be ready at all times to respond, said the APNU+AFC