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Debris blocks drains causing flooding in Arnos Vale area

Debris blocks drains causing flooding in Arnos Vale area

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The flooding that caused havoc at the E.T. Joshua Airport on the weekend is the worst that the facility has experienced in close to six years.{{more}}

Director of Airports Corsel Robertson told SEARCHLIGHT that the last time the building was overrun with water and debris of that magnitude was in December 2007.

“Since then, we have had water come over, but never going through the buildings like that, because the roads and the drainage system along the roads were re-done, and the situation improved significantly; however, all the efforts to have the roads and drainage system re-done will be a waste if people continue to throw rubbish into the gutters and gullies upstream, because there is nothing we at the bottom can do about it,” Robertson said.

The director said that about one hour before the airport was swamped, more than three inches of rain descended on the area, and produced heavy flooding.

The road in the vicinity of Sunrise Supermarket was completely blocked to traffic, at about 8 p.m., causing commuters and pedestrians to seek refuge in the supermarket and its parking lot. Some sought alternate routes, while others turned around and headed back to where they had come from.

“….And what happened at the airport is that the areas uphill from us, Dorsetshire Hill, Sion Hill, and ‘Bom Bom’ on the other side, we are in the flood plains, so all the debris and rubbish came down, blocked the drains nearby, and you had logs and all sort of domestic waste and containers and trees, leaves, coconuts and so forth, and that resulted in the blocked drains on the main road….

“And the water still had to go somewhere. It came over into the airport compound and flooded the building from the area near the Bank of SVG to the entire building length down to the bottom.

“The only area that escaped was at Customs arrival area,” Robertson informed SEARCHLIGHT.

She said that areas, including the departure lounge, airline offices and shops on the ground floor received a heavy deposit of mud and debris.

Robertson said that the extent of waste in the facility called for an immediate shutdown of the airport.

She told SEARCHLIGHT that the facility remained closed until 10 Sunday morning, to make clean-up and restoration possible.

As a result, apart from one flight that was already on the tarmac and ready for take-off when the flooding started, six flights were cancelled during the period when the airport was closed.

The clean-up was done by airport staff, who were assisted by members of the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force Fire Brigade stationed at Arnos Vale and Kingstown, as well as a contingent of Special Services Unit police officers, led by Acting Commissioner of Police Michael Charles, and a number of private citizens.

According to Robertson, the mud and debris were removed from the facility in less than eight hours.

“They did an excellent job. They used the fire hoses, and by 3 a.m. the next morning the building was clean; it just needed mopping. Because we didn’t have mops, we used brooms to push out the water from the building….

“The following day, the fire services assisted with cleaning up the parking apron and the runway areas and so forth, and we commenced operations at about 10:30 the morning.”

Robertson thanked her staff, police and fire services, the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO), the Buildings, Roads and General Services Authority (BRAGSA), and the individuals who took on the challenge of cleaning the airport, or who gave any other assistance.

Robertson also made a personal appeal for individuals to properly dispose of their waste and garbage, in an effort to prevent a similar incident from taking place, the next time heavy rains fall in the area.

“Please do not dispose of the waste in the drains and gullies and gutters, because once the rains fall heavily, these will wash down in the public roads and towards the airport. We depend on the citizens to be responsible to prevent this sort of problem.”

The heavy rains also caused a number of landslides around the country.

According to BRAGSA’s Communications manager Roxanne Millington, more than 20 landslides were reported in areas such as Belmont, La Croix, Yambou, Mount Young, Kilbourney, Park Hill, and South Rivers.

She said that flooding was also reported in Kingstown, and a number of trees fell in the windward area.

Millington indicated that teams from BRAGSA were working diligently to have roads and bridges cleared, to bring things back to normal.

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