I’M NOT LEAVING – Woman in tottering Manzanilla house rejects rescuers

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Garnet Moller, speaks to media on Manzanilla Main Road after his sister refused his assistance from rescuers even though her property was surrounded by water and her house seemed on the verge of collapse on Monday. – ROGER JACOB

The attempted rescue of an elderly woman from a tottering house in Manzanilla failed on Monday as pensioner Carol Moller refused to leave her home and her pets. She turned away her brother and rescuers from the Disaster Management Unit of the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation (SGRC), the fire service, and the police service.

Her brother Garnet Moller spoke to Newsday after returning from the rescue mission at 2 pm. He was frustrated at his sister’s refusal to leave. The house was unapproachable by vehicle as portions of the road had completely broken away, and the rescue team had to walk along the beach to get to the house.

Anil Juteram, Chairman of the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation leads members of his disaster management unit, and relatives of Carol Moller through floodwaters near Manzanilla Main Road on Monday. – ROGER JACOB

“I’m coming from Tunapuna and I’ve been here since 6 am trying to get to her, and we couldn’t get to cross the water at that time. The upstairs and downstairs house is falling, and she’s going to stay in a flat house on the side, which if the big house falls down, it will come on top the small house. She just does not want to leave, and look at these goodly people here waiting to help her, but she will not come out of there. Nobody to be blamed but her herself.

“At least I saw her, she seems to be all right and she believes she can take care of herself from there. She just does not want to leave. She is healthy at this point in time, nothing seems to be wrong with her, she’s walking about and healthy, but she just wants to stay there because that’s her house and nobody wants to leave their house. She’s been living there since 1980. So she will stay there and I will keep monitoring her.”

The force of floodwaters, which have been raging for days, was too much for this stretch of the Manzanilla Main Road which was left destroyed by the torrent. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB – ROGER JACOB

Moller thanked the team who had come out to attempt to rescue his sister, and especially thanked the two police officers, WPC Bailey and Constable Amman, who waded through chest-high water to reach the location.

“These people here were very helpful and the fire brigade was here in full force, going to do what they could, and this is what TT is about, everybody gets together in case of an emergency and that was shown in Manzanilla here today.”

Newsday attempted to call Carol Moller but was unable to speak to her directly.

Fire officers make journey to their vehicle after a stranded resident refused their offer of rescue on Monday. – ROGER JACOB

SGRC Chairman Anil Juteram was with the team that tried to rescue Moller and told Newsday what he observed.

“We received a report from the police station about an elderly lady who had made a distress call and we decided to come out equipped to deal with the consequences of any emergency. The team of us got to the house and saw the devastation; the front of the house was really damaged, the fence is broken down, and the foundation is being attacked by water also.

“To the back, there’s a beach house, which a coconut tree fell on, and the roof is in a serious condition. The road is also broken down here and further up the road.

“Unfortunately, the lady is concerned about her pets up there. The police did what they could, they went to find out from her what she wanted to do and at least we know we saw someone alive and not deceased. They can’t arrest her to bring her out and as long as she decides to stay there, there’s nothing they can do.”

Juteram said if she should call the Manzanilla Police Station the officers would have to risk their lives again to assist her, and if she did decide to leave, the police would co-ordinate with the corporation and the fire service to do the same thing again.

Manzanilla villagers walk through floodwaters on Monday. – ROGER JACOB

Members of the community told Newsday that Moller had geese and ducks on her property and did not want to leave them behind. At least a dozen people made the hour-long trek from the Manzanilla Beach Facility, where the flooding began, to see if they could assist in the rescue efforts.

The road had broken away to varying degrees in places and flood waters could be seen moving from the mangrove to the sea. In some areas where the path of the water was blocked from flowing to the sea by retaining walls at the back of properties, it flowed back onto the road. The waters varied in height from a thin film over the road to knee-high water, and in some cases there was a strong current present.

Fallen coconut trees were seen resting on wires above the road, and at least one fallen tree had to be cleared from the road before rescuers could proceed.

Rough seas at Manzanilla Beach on Monday. – ROGER JACOB

Residents of the area complained that a resort built in the area had blocked the Doubloon River from emptying into the sea as it normally would, and this was contributing to flooding on the main road. They were heard wondering what would happen if the rains continued.

In other areas of East Trinidad, waters had receded from the roads in Fishing Pond, Vega de Oropouche, and Sangre Grande. However, especially at Vega de Oropouche, the river was seen to be almost at the level of the road, with fields on either side of the road being saturated.