[UPDATED] Corporation chairman: Diego Martin in emergency mode after heavy flooding

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Drivers manoeuvre through floodwaters in Cocorite on Monday. – PHOTO BY JEFF K MAYERS

Several parts of western Trinidad were under floodwaters on Monday after a heavy downpour during the afternoon. There were also some landslides.

Affected areas included Diego Martin, St James, Cocorite, Petit Valley, La Puerta and Carenage.

When Newsday spoke with Diego Martin Regional Corporation chairman Sigler Jack at around 2 pm on Monday, he said the disaster management unit was being mobilised.

“A lot is happening right now, nothing is organised as yet. We are in emergency mode.”

The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) released a summary of weather-related incidents affecting the public and communities throughout the country.

Long lines of traffic heading west in Cocorite because of street and flash flooding. – PHOTO BY JEFF K MAYERS

Four landslides were reported by the Diego Martin corporation. They occurred at Woodbine Valley Road Ext; Upper Bournes Road, St James; Hillcrest, Upper La Puerta; and Freedom Street, Cocorite. Another landslide happened at Geoffrey Street, Ross Land, St James, where homes were flooded.

Jack, in an update at around 5 pm, said the number of reported landslides had increased to “24 and counting, reports just keep coming in.”

He said a landslide went through a family’s home in La Puerta, and arrangements were being made for them to relocate for the night. He said community centres would be the last resort.

“Once you open the centre for one family for the night, they will be there indefinitely. A centre is normally opened for multiple families. If alternate accommodation cannot be sought by a certain time, then we will have no choice but to open the centre.”

Jack said field officers were out gathering additional information, and clean-up would begin on Tuesday. He said workers were already on their way home by the time floodwaters receded.

Monday’s flooding, Jack said, happened in areas which did not usually flood, including Bournes Road, the Queen’s Park Savannah and Carenage.

He attributed the floods to unusually heavy rainfall, and denied suggestions that it could have been caused by construction uphill.

“Whether or not you had construction, this would have happened. Remember, the water finds its own course and the whole St James Main Road was a river.

“If it was a construction it would not be this widespread.”

Flash flooding removed manhole covers on Bournes Road, St James. – PHOTO BY JEFF K MAYERS

Flash flooding along the Diego Martin Highway near the new overpass and the Cocorite overpass caused extensive traffic and stalling of vehicles.

Giselle Hernandez was travelling from St James with groceries in hand when her taxi got caught in the flood. Near the Cocorite overpass, the engine started smoking and the taxi shut down.

Hernandez exited the vehicle near John Street, took a few steps into the flood water and fell into an uncovered manhole. She did not identify any serious injuries, but said her groceries washed away. She said a passer-by, from “up the hill” helped her get out of the manhole and rising water.