FLOOD BACKLASH– Al-Rawi, Sinanan confronted, mocked by Bamboo No 2 residents

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A resident of Jaffar Street, Bamboo No 2 stands in her yard in thigh-high floodwater on Tuesday. Photo by Roger Jacob

Angry residents from Bamboo No 2 did not mince words when they confronted Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan and Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi during their visit to the area on Tuesday.

The residents whose homes were flooded after heavy rainfall over the weekend and on Monday, heaped scorn on both ministers, chastising them for their response to the floods.

Videos of the confrontation were circulated on social media as the residents were seen surrounding Al-Rawi and Sinanan, hurling insults at them, during the visit.

A resident of Jaffar Street, Bamboo No 2, Valsayn South, uses a canoe to navigate floodwaters in the area as others wade through the water on Tuesday. Photo by Roger Jacob

Responding to the incident during the Ministry of of Local Government’s virtual media briefing on Tuesday afternoon, Sinanan said he remained focused on how to solve the issue of flooding and did not pay attention to the jeers.

He also accused some people of using the flooding to raise their profile, while agencies were busy trying to bring relief to affected communities.

“This is a very challenging time and there are people who will try to distract us from doing our work, and I just want to say that nobody will distract this minister from what he has to do, and we will just ignore those who want to use this opportunity to make themselves very popular.

“I understand there was somebody braying while I was going and doing my work in Bamboo. Unfortunately I didn’t hear him because I was really paying no attention to clowns on the road.”

Al-Rawi also commented on the incident, saying such outbursts were not helpful in an emergency response situation, and asked the public to temper themselves.

He said representatives from different political backgrounds have united to bring relief to flooded communities and urged residents to avoid people seeking political mileage.

“I don’t think that is very helpful to be engaged in – and I’ll use a technical term – level cussing – just for political purposes.

Residents and volunteers wade through floodwaters with relief supplies and other items on Jaffar Street, Bamboo No 2, Valsayn South, on Tuesday. Photo by Roger Jacob

“I can tell you that the members of Parliament, all of us, have been co-ordinating – every last one of them, we have all been on the same page.

“I did a joint interview this morning at Bamboo No 2 with the councillor for the area who belongs to the Opposition. So let’s please minimise fake news and try to avoid the unprofitability of people who just seek to grab attention and create distraction.”

Al-Rawi said while weather conditions appeared to improve on Tuesday, several parts of the country remained waterlogged, noting that parts of Bamboo No 2 were submerged in water as much as ten feet deep.

He said during their visit to Bamboo No 2, they were able to see the sites where the Caroni River breached its banks, and attributed this to a resident’s having cleared a river embankment.

“Eighty feet of river embankment was cleared away by a resident in the area.

“That is 80 feet of river embankment allowing for the full breach of the Caroni River.

“In that particular equation, the water got so high that the pump house at Bamboo No 2, was under ten feet of water and the pumps had to be turned off.

A boat supplied by Nanan Tours helps resupply residents with basic food and fresh drinking water at Bamboo No 2, Valsayn South, on Tuesday. Photo by Roger Jacob

“Minister Sinanan has arranged for auxiliary pumps to be brought on site. But the problem is with the Caroni River at full capacity, having breached its banks, having crossed the highway, reducing (it) to one lane alone – moving the water out into the Caroni River becomes a problem.”

Sinanan agreed the alleged cutting of the riverbank could be attributed to the flooding, but also noted that residents claimed work by a contractor might  also have contributed to the problems.

“The challenge we have in Bamboo is there is no way for the water to come out of Bamboo unless we pump.

“It is a very dangerous area, because you still have water coming into Bamboo, especially at the point where the resident would have cut the bank.”

Al-Rawi said he and Sinanan have been at work from 5 am on Tuesday, visiting areas in Mayaro with the assistance of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM), with support from the defence force.

Al-Rawi added that of the 126 flooded areas, only 41 areas had seen receding floodwater.