Tulsa Trace, Penal residents concerned over sinkholes near Penal bridge

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

One of the sinkholes near the Tulsa Trace bridge in Penal. A tree can be seen growing out of the hole. PHOTO BY VENESSA MOHAMMED – Venessa Mohammed

Tulsa Trace, Penal residents hope a bridge in their area can be repaired quickly, as they fear heavy showers and the usual flooding this rainy season could further compromise it, after two sinkholes appeared within the last few months.

Covered with an old truck tyre at the end of the bridge is a hole about a foot across and four feet deep that appeared, by residents’ accounts, two months ago. Neighbouring it is a half-inch-thick steel sheet covering a similar hole, which residents said formed within the last week. Varma Maharaj, 31, told Newsday the section of road has been sinking for almost a year. However, residents have been unable to get assistance from the authorities to fix it.”All those patches around there, there’s a man just up the road there with a backhoe – I don’t know where he got oil sand from – and he filled up the road here.

A truck makes its way along this road in Tulsa Trace, Penal. Residents say sinkholes have formed along this road, presenting a danger to anyone using the road. PHOTO BY VENESSA MOHAMMED – Venessa Mohammed

“That side of the bridge is okay, but this side is where the foundation underneath just kind of eroded and by and by it just kind of collapsed. So the bridge will stand, but where that road is that meets the bridge, that will fall eventually,” he said. The Tulsa Trace area falls victim to flooding annually, becoming virtually impassable. In recent times the community was submerged multiple times every rainy season.

Maharaj said this could exacerbate the collapse of the roadway near the bridge.”With the rainy season coming, that gonna get worse. Water never cover the bridge, but it will hit underneath where the hole is, it will hit there and erode underneath, because on either side of the bridge, there is no foundation really, where the bridge meets the road…there is nothing to hold the road up.” He said the road was last paved under the People’s Partnership administration. Pancham Ganess, 75, believes the bridge is being damaged by trucks, which are becoming more prevalent in the area.”Too much heavy vehicles passing here now. The weight damaging the end of the bridge.”

Kenny Seenath, 60, told Newsday the bridge is older than him, and lamented that he has never witnessed any work being done on it.

Concerned Tulsa Trace, Penal resident Sumintra Badal.PHOTO BY VENESSA MOHAMMED – Venessa Mohammed

Similarly, he too fears how the rainy season may affect the road and the bridge. Sumintra Badal, 40, described the situation as “frustrating.” Speaking to Newsday at her home, Badal sounded defeated. “It ain’t make sense. You keep protesting, you reporting about it and they (authorities) not doing anything,” she said.She called for the bridge to be repaired urgently and, in an ideal world, believes it should be replaced by a more modern structure. Although it’s not the only route into the community, residents said it was the most direct and smoothest one. Newsday was unable to secure comment from Siparia Mayor Doodnath Mayhroo, but a post on his Facebook page said the area’s councillor had raised the issue as a matter of urgency. “The sinkhole poses a significant danger to vehicles using the bridge, necessitating immediate attention and intervention,” it said.It added that technical teams had visited the site and put the steel sheet over the hole as a temporary measure. “

Accompanied by the corporation’s engineer and the councillor, we assessed the situation firsthand and promptly initiated the necessary actions to address the hazard. We mobilised materials to temporarily cover the sinkhole, ensuring the safety of motorists. Meanwhile, we are discussing comprehensive measures to rehabilitate the road and restore it to its original condition as swiftly as possible.” Oropouche West MP Davendranath Tancoo said the Siparia Borough Corporation’s technical team submitted a report to select a contractor to repair the holes. Like residents, he believes the entire bridge should be changed, but lamented the corporation is not receiving enough money from the central government to make this feasible.