Claxton Bay residents: Landslide worse – we need houses

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Giles Garcia climbs a rope to get out of the landslip that claimed his home at Belle Vue, Claxton Bay four months ago. – Lincoln Holder

Saturday marks four months since the massive landslip at Diamond Road in Claxton Bay wreaked havoc, destroying a house and making nearby ones unsafe to live in.

On Friday, affected residents told Newsday the situation has worsened, as land movements continue daily. They called on the authorities to prioritise them, saying they need housing.

Giles Garcia, 62, told Newsdayhe applied for a rental assistance grant, but up to Friday, it had not been approved.

“I have been waiting about two and a half months for the grant. I submitted all documents. I followed up on it, and staff members said they sent the documents for approvals to the higher authorities,” Garcia said. “I think three months was enough time for the authorities to have put proper things in place for us. They need to give us a priority.”

Garcia, his wife and her two adult children fled the house before dawn on September 15, when the sounds of the house cracking alerted them to danger. The family became homeless, as their house and its contents plunged several feet down a hill.

Social Development and Family Services Minister Donna Cox offered the grant as a temporary measure when she met with affected residents on September 19.The grant is reviewed periodically and can be accessed for up to a year, she had told them.

Belle Vue, Claxton Bay residents Marva Fritz and Nardera Ramsaran-Williams are all waiting for help from the authorities after they homes were damaged by a landslip four months ago – Lincoln Holder

Fed up with sleeping in cramped conditions, Garcia began paying rent in the interim.

“I am using my NIS to pay the rent. For over 45 years, I paid tax in this country. Money is very hard to come by at this time. We are worse (off) than we were four months ago.”

Garcia said he also applied for a house from the Housing Development Corporation. He said staffers referred him to TT Mortgage Finance Ltd.

“They say I am qualified for a $400, 000 mortgage at seven years for almost $6, 000 monthly,” Garcia recalled. “Old Year’s night, the Housing Minister called, and I told her all that I did. I really appreciated the call.”

But, he said, “From then to now, I don’t know what is going on. I know it is not us alone with issues. Right now, we are not even getting salt.”

Garcia said as “praying people,” they know there is a power greater than all than humans.

He added, “We will not let any PNM ministers send us mad.”

Other affected residents rejected the offer of the grant, saying it was not enough.

In September, pensioner Marva Fritz, 67, cleared her home, and part of their property collapsed.

“Any time the rest could fall. Just by looking at the damage, it could send people mad,” Fritz said. “Look how much trouble Giles is going through to get the grant. The problem is getting worse every day, and people in authority are not giving us answers.”

The residents blame the rapid land movements on nearby quarrying.

The affected area is outside the Coco Road quarry, which is owned by the Estate Management and Business Development Company Ltd (EMBD), which has launched an investigation.

Nardera Ramsaran-Williams, her husband, and their two children also cleared out their home. Like Fritz’s, the electricity was disconnected.

Ramsaran-Williams and her family have been sleeping in cars on the property.

“Every day we have to buy two bags of ice, cocksets (mosquito coils) and candles.

“We need housing. The MP (Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee) has written to the Housing Ministry on our behalf. He is trying his best to help us,” she said.

The land movements are affecting three other nearby homes.