Cri­sis in the Rio Grande val­ley

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Gareth Davis Gleaner Writer

BELLE­VUE, Port­land: UN­LESS GOV­ERN­MENT di­rects re­sources to Belle­vue in the Rio Grande Val­ley of Port­land, where thou­sands of res­i­dents, in­clud­ing stu­dents, have been ma­rooned due to mul­ti­ple land slip­pages, con­di­tions could worsen in a com­mu­nity where there is lit­tle wa­ter, lit­tle food, and no elec­tric­ity.

The wors­en­ing sit­u­a­tion is be­ing felt by the most vul­ner­a­ble, in­clud­ing the el­derly and stu­dents, who are un­able to tra­verse the dev­as­tated ter­rain, which is made worse by mud, wa­ter, and the stench from an­i­mals.

“We have no wa­ter, and food is run­ning low,” com­mented Her­man Reid, prin­ci­pal of Belle­vue Pri­mary.

“Un­less we get some heavy­duty equip­ment in the area, this com­mu­nity will re­main blocked. I am very dis­traught and con­cerned about these stu­dents, who could be out of school for an­other three weeks. I am also wor­ried that any­one fall­ing ill at this time will not be able to get med­i­cal at­ten­tion. And with the Zika virus still in the air, there is great con­cern now as wa­ter out­lets are ev­ery­where. I can­not ask my fe­male teach­ers to tra­verse four kilo­me­tres of mud and slip­pery con­di­tions to get to school, but I will be present as stu­dents have to pre­pare for the Grade Six Achieve­ment Test,” Reid added.

Ac­cord­ing to the prin­ci­pal, grade five and grade six stu­dents have been asked to see how best they can ne­go­ti­ate the slip­pery and ad­verse road con­di­tions, es­pe­cially those liv­ing in prox­im­ity to the school.

Six days of tor­ren­tial rain­fall re­cently pounded the Rio Grande Val­ley, de­stroy­ing houses,

live­stock, veg­e­ta­tion, and leav­ing sev­eral other com­mu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing Mill Bank, Com­fort Cas­tle, Ginger House, and Corn­wall Bar­racks blocked. How­ever, a team from the National Works Agency has since man­aged to clear a sec­tion of Mill Bank, Com­fort Cas­tle, and Ginger House, which are now able to ac­com­mo­date sin­gle-lane traf­fic.

SE­RI­OUS CHAL­LENGE

But while those ad­join­ing com­mu­ni­ties have been par­tially cleared, Belle­vue re­mains a se­ri­ous chal­lenge, es­pe­cially given the fact that dozens of util­ity poles have been dis­lodged and up to yes­ter­day, were still ly­ing on the ground.

Shen­nel Ster­ling, a fourth-form stu­dent at Titch­field High School, told The Gleaner yes­ter­day that since the dev­as­ta­tion caused by the re­cent heavy rains, she has to walk more than four miles to get a ve­hi­cle, which will trans­port her into Port An­to­nio, which is ap­prox­i­mately 18 miles from Belle­vue.

“I have to get up at 3 a.m.

each day,” said the stu­dent.

“My dad ac­com­pa­nies me to the point where I get a taxi. I have to travel with my uni­form in a bag and also a change of cloth­ing. I have to claw my way through the mud and slip­pery con­di­tions. There is no elec­tric­ity and, there­fore, I have to go into Port An­to­nio, where I get my uni­form ironed for school. This is like a night­mare for me and oth­ers,” she added.

In the mean­time, res­i­dents said there was no sign of their po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives, who have vis­ited other flood-rav­aged

com­mu­ni­ties but who are un­able to ac­cess the rugged ter­rain, which has been made worse by at least 18 mas­sive land­slides, to get into Belle­vue.

And with the cri­sis sit­u­a­tion es­ca­lat­ing, there is the ur­gent cry from res­i­dents for the pow­ers that be to drop off food and wa­ter by he­li­copter as shops are now run­ning low on food.

PHOTO BY GARETH DAVIS

Res­i­dents tra­verse the rugged ter­rain in Belle­vue, Port­land, in search of food.

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