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Park Hill graves swept away by the river; villager fears more will be taken

Park Hill graves swept away by the river; villager fears more will be taken


Years ago, when persons buried their family members in the Park Hill cemetery, they may have thought that a plot on the bank of the Colonarie River was the ideal final resting place for their relatives.

After all, it overlooked the biggest river in the country.

But that changed last Wednesday, November 9 as the Colonarie River which runs through South Rivers and Park Hill eroded a section of the river bank directly below the Park Hill cemetery, causing the bank to collapse, taking with it a number of the graves.{{more}}

In an interview last Sunday, grave digger Basil Chewitt of South Rivers told SEARCHLIGHT that when the raging river waters eroded the river bank, about ten graves were swept away.

Chewitt, whosays he has been a gravedigger since he was 12, said that use of the cemetery for new burials was discontinued since 2002 but some persons would usually visit the cemetery to tend to their relatives’ burial sites.

Now in his 40s, Chewitt said that he is sad to see the graves swept away by the river and he fears that more will be taken away if some sort of wall or strengthening of the river bank is not done.

“I feel bad about it. Coffins and bones get wash away,” said the gravedigger who revealed that in the past, while digging graves he dug up bones, but this is different as those bones he found were placed back in the ground, but the ones that have been swept out to sea have been lost forever.

“I think we have to put back a wall and bury over the ones we can find,” said Chewitt who added that while he is not superstitious, he thinks that reburial is the right thing to do.

But while the gravedigger is upset about the graves being washed away, a number of villagers are upset about something else, the altering of a number of tributaries that make up the huge body of water.

One villager who refused to give his name, told SEARCHLIGHT that he is of the opinion that work done on the river a few weeks ago caused the river to hit harder into the bank below the cemetery causing mass erosion and the subsequent collapse to the huge wall of soil.

According to the resident, about one month ago, residents saw a tractor in the river moving boulders from one area to another. He said that these boulders were used to converge two tributaries into one and that changed the course and strength of a section of the river below the cemetery.

“For years no water was not hitting the bank so strong, so common sense would tell you that is what caused the erosion.

A number of other graves are in threat of being washed away, among them, these ones, three of which belong to Eugenie Glasgow, who was born in 1935 and died on June 15, 2002, Ira Banes and Jerom Glasgow (born 1975).

When you interrupt nature, you have problems. You don’t disturb the natural flow of the system,” said the irate man who admitted that he was not an engineer, but strongly believes in his theory about why the graves were washed away.

He is also of the view that the new cemetery is also in danger of being flooded because the natural course of the river was changed.

The river became swollen and began raging last week after an overnight surface trough system dumped seven inches of rain on the island.

Yesterday, Minister of Transport and Works Julian Francis said that while he is not laying the blame on the closing of the tributary, the matter will be investigated.

He said that persons are entertaining the idea that the work done on the river caused the erosion of the cemetery bank, but that may not be the case as over the past few days, we have had a large quantity of rain that may possibly be the most this country has ever seen.

“We intend to follow up the theory and if it is correct and we will change the flow but we not just going act like that,” Francis said.

He said that the work was done on that river and a number of other rivers as part of the National Disaster Management Project which was implemented after the 2013 floods that caused widespread damage island wide.

Francis said that the cleaning and clearing of a number of rivers throughout the country has helped to mitigate against flood damage. He said that a lot of clearing was done in places like Buccament and Vermont and that has helped to prevent severe flooding in these areas.

Francis noted that in 2013, the rains came over a short period of time, but now in 2016, rain is falling heavy and in longer periods so that is causing problems.

After the graves were washed away and water could be seen oozing from a number of other graves, a public service announcement was broadcast, asking persons to desist from using the river.

But on Sunday, it was business as usual at the Colonaire River as persons washed and fished freely in the waters below the cemetery.(LC)