Ameen, Al-Rawi spar over flood clean-up

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

FILE PHOTO: In a common scene at Bamboo No 2, Valsayn South on Friday, flood damaged furniture and appliances are laid out in the front yard of a home during clean-up efforts. –

ST AUGUSTINE MP Khadijah Ameen on Wednesday claimed a possible health hazard developing in flood-hit areas, owing to the Government’s alleged slowness in cleaning up after the recent floods, but any negligence was flatly denied to Newsday by Minister of Local Government Faris Al-Rawi.

In a statement, Ameen complained “Al-Rawi needs to get his act together” in his flood-relief efforts, while UNC MPs and councillors were on the ground in the flood-affected areas.

She alleged a lack of support from public agencies. “One area of serious concern is the timely removal of damaged, flood-soaked household items.”

Ameen said the problem was not a lack of resources, but allegedly poor co-ordination and an absence of any political directive from the Government.

She called for a pooling and co-ordination of resources among all 14 regional corporations and CEPEP to provide more manual labour, power washing, water trucks, dump trucks, and backhoes. Ameen urged overtime pay for public workers involved in the clean-up.

Ameen alleged a potential public health hazard in flooded areas owing to the slow removal of flood-soaked clothing, beds, furniture, appliances and other items, plus the associated stench and dust.

“In some areas this stench is unbearable and the limited resources assigned and lack of proper co-ordination must be addressed immediately.”

Al-Rawi sharply disagreed, talking to Newsday on Wednesday. He said relief was being delivered in a way no one had ever seen before.

“We’ve done door-to-door, CEPEP, clustered corporation activities – Port of Spain, San Juan/Laventille, Tunapuna/Piarco regional corporations. How much more can be done there, I don’t know.

“We have water trucks cleaning down, we have the Fire Service… There’s literally nothing else that can be done, that we are not doing. Just give us the time to do it. We are hard at work.”

He said his ministry and its agencies such as CEPEP, plus the Fire Service, WASA, volunteers and the Ministry of Social Development, were all now heavily engaged in disaster relief.

“I’m very, very pleased to see the extent of work we are engaged in. We physically have resources house by house. We’ve gone house to house and are continuing with that effort.”

He explained that apart from mitigating flooding, the aim was to get in to do a clean-up and assessment. Al-Rawi hailed the volunteers who helped, including hundreds of municipal police officers.

“A huge contingent from the municipal police went door to door to meet people to co-ordinate assessment and meet the DM (disaster management) and the Ministry of Social Development.

“We currently have clustered Port of Spain, San Juan/Laventille, Tunapuna/Piarco and Arima corporations and we brought those resources into several areas – South Valsayn, Bamboo.”

He said Mayaro was also being addressed.

“We are physically cleaning with CEPEP – yards and homes. We are transferring a massive amount of white waste, chairs and things that are all prejudiced.

“Very importantly, there have been very many overflowing sewers, we are also attending to make sure people have functionality of the sewer systems.

“We are cleaning roads with water trucks and other things.”

Al-Rawi said, “So it’s a massive relief operation.

“I want to thank all the very many hard-working people from all the agencies.”