Food and wa­ter at last!

Jamaica Gleaner - - SPORTS - Gareth Davis Sr Sun­day Gleaner Writer

Res­i­dents re­joice for sup­plies after be­ing trapped for a week

Res­i­dents at Belle­vue as­sist­ing with the re­moval of food, wa­ter and toi­letries from a JDF he­li­copter, which landed at Belle­vue in the Rio Grande Val­ley of Port­land on Fri­day. Food loaded on a JDF he­li­copter on Fri­day at Folly in Port­land to be air­lifted to Belle­vue. The rugged ter­rain at Belle­vue, Port­land. BELLE­VUE, Port­land: HE SMILES and shouts of ju­bi­la­tion were ev­i­dent among res­i­dents at Belle­vue in the Rio Grande Val­ley of Port­land, who re­ceived much-needed food, wa­ter, san­i­tary items and emer­gency sup­plies, after be­ing trapped in their com­mu­nity for more than a week.

The long-awaited ar­rival of the sup­plies to the more than 300 res­i­dents – who were fear­ing the worst after six days of tor­ren­tial rain­fall left them cut off from so­ci­ety in a com­mu­nity heav­ily de­pen­dent on farm­ing – ar­rived by a Ja­maica De­fence Force (JDF) he­li­copter on Fri­day.

Among those ar­riv­ing by the chop­per were Daryl Vaz, min­is­ter with­out port­fo­lio in the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter with re­spon­si­bil­ity for job cre­ation and eco­nomic growth; a team of en­gi­neers from the Na­tional Works Agency (NWA) and the JDF; Coun­cil­lor Benny White, and a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the Min­istry of Labour and So­cial Se­cu­rity (MLSS).

“It is as bad as it looks on tele­vi­sion,” com­mented Vaz.

“We vis­ited Belle­vue by he­li­copter with the en­gi­neers to see how best we can tackle the break­aways ex­pe­di­tiously. We will be get­ting an­other front-end loader, whereby we will be tack­ling the break­aways from both ends, so that they can be cleared in a shorter time. We de­liv­ered toi­letries, food­stuff, and bleach, so that the health and san­i­ta­tion con­cerns can be tack­led.”

Ac­cord­ing to Vaz, who is also mem­ber of par­lia­ment for West Port­land, the food will be dis­trib­uted by the MLSS, and all those af­fected will ben­e­fit from the sup­plies that were de­liv­ered. He noted that the dis­tri­bu­tion will be car­ried out in a non-par­ti­san man­ner, and cau­tioned those han­dling it to en­sure that those af­fected are given im­me­di­ate at­ten­tion.

TBIGGEST CHAL­LENGE

White, who is coun­cil­lor for the Fel­low­ship di­vi­sion, pointed out that one of the big­gest chal­lenges en­coun­tered by the res­i­dents was that of a shortage of drink­ing wa­ter, which was now re­solved.

“Food and wa­ter is a ne­ces­sity for hu­mans,” com­mented White. “It is quite clear that res­i­dents are happy, hav­ing re­ceived them. Our re­sources will now be di­rected to the clear­ing of blocked road­ways, so as to al­low easy ac­cess for res­i­dents to leave and re-en­ter the com­mu­nity by foot and pub­lic trans­port. Once this is done, elec­tri­cal power can be re­stored in short or­der.”

So far, some res­i­dents have taken it upon them­selves to tra­verse the rugged ter­rain, which poses se­ri­ous chal­lenges and dan­gers to them, as they have to walk more than three miles in muddy and slip­pery con­di­tions through the hills and val­leys, while en­coun­ter­ing precipice, gul­lies, and wa­ter­ways lit­tered with dis­lo­cated con­crete pipes and fallen trees and de­bris.

Huge craters and piles of mud tell a fright­en­ing story of the dev­as­ta­tion brought about by the re­cent tor­ren­tial rain­fall, which pelted sec­tions of the Rio Grande Val­ley for six straight days, de­stroy­ing crops, other forms of veg­e­ta­tion, and live­stock at Ber­ry­dale, Gin­ger House, Com­fort Cas­tle, Mill­bank, Corn­wall Bar­racks, Kent, Wind­sor, and Sea­man’s Val­ley.

The lone raft stand at Ber­ry­dale was also de­mol­ished after the Rio Grande over­flowed its banks, sweep­ing in its path more than a hun­dred raft­ing ves­sels, while de­liv­er­ing a crip­pling blow to the par­ish’s al­ready fragile tourism sec­tor, pri­mar­ily Rio Grande raft­ing – Port­land’s premier tourist at­trac­tion and Ja­maica’s old­est.

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