Massive landslide forces closure of Belmont main road
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September 6, 2013

Massive landslide forces closure of Belmont main road

Commuters and the curious members of the public are being warned to stay away from the broken embankment on the Belmont main road, as the area is considered unsafe, following a landslide on Monday night.{{more}}

Director of the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) Howie Prince, at a press conference on Tuesday, advised that a portion of the road in the vicinity of Ginger Village, a bus stop in the area and CWSA water mains were lost, due to heavy overnight rains in the area, and further damage was likely.

“What we had last night is the result of a small portion of a tropical wave that has been moving around the region…. producing very heavy rainfall, particularly in the mountainous areas of St Vincent and the Grenadines,” Prince said.

“As a result of the tropical wave, we will continue to see that kind of rainfall, which tells us that there is likely to be possibly more landslides. We don’t know of what magnitude, we don’t know where, but if you live in St Vincent and the Grenadines, you are quite aware of the areas that have had landslides in the past; so we are going to ask people to be very vigilant… and if you see anything which may result in danger, report it as quickly as possible, get out of danger’s way as fast as you can,” he added.

When SEARCHLIGHT visited the area on Tuesday morning, officials from the Ministry of Transport and Works, the Buildings, Roads and General Services Authority (BRAGSA), the Central Water and Sewerage Authority (CWSA) and the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force, including Minister of Transport and Works Julian Francis and area representative and Minister of Education Girlyn Miguel, were on hand assessing the damage, which had been done shortly after 8 p.m. Monday.

Residents of the area, as well as others who had heard of the incident, turned out to get a first hand view of what had taken place.

One Ginger Village resident told SEARCHLIGHT that she had a feeling earlier in the day that something terrible would happen in the area.

“We saw the cracks in the road when I was going to Arnos Vale, and when I came back about minutes to 12, the cracks were wider because the rain was pouring, and it was coming real heavy.”

The villager said that, unlike others in the area, she did not hear when the road collapsed, but when she was told about it, she came to look, and although she was shocked, she was not surprised.

When he spoke at the press conference, chief engineer

Brent Bailey advised that because of the landslide, alternate routes would have to be used to move commuters to and from the area, until repairs are effected.

These repairs, he noted ,would not be completed in the short-term.

“The intention is to facilitate the bypass at the George Williams’ shop in Belmont… proceed through the Fair Hall Road, which would take you past the Seventh Day Adventist Church and come around to Whim Road.

“The initial bypass would require that all traffic take from George Williams’ shop to town, go through to the Calliaqua junction, which is at John Dougan shop,” Bailey advised.

“Traffic coming from town would turn right on to the Whim Road, and meet at the Fair Hall Road next to the Gibson’s residence, and then come back along the Fair Hall main road to George Williams’ shop.”

Bailey said that this was necessary because the Whim Road could not facilitate two-way traffic.

“The repair is going to take some time. This is not something that will happen overnight, simply because of the extent of the slippage. In length it is pretty small; it is only about 60 or so feet. The height, however is significant. I estimate that it is in excess of 150 feet,” he said.

“It is difficult for me to give an estimate or time as to how long it would take to fix that area that has been affected, at least eight months, but I would expect it to take more…. This is a long haul event; there is no immediate fix to this area.”

Bailey also noted that there is a possibility that the road in the area would be realigned, but he was not able at the time to give a cost of redevelopment in the area. He said, however, that up to $700,000 may be needed to develop the alternate routes.

The public was also informed that water supply to the villages of Belmont, Calder, Ginger Village, Victoria Village, McCarthy, Calder Ridge, Glamorgan, La Croix, Belvedere, Fair Hall and Harmony Hall had been disrupted, and according to CWSA general manager Garth Saunders, this would be the case until repairs to the pipelines in the area were done.

Saunders said that his staff was doing all they could to have the water supply restored in the area, but in the interim, other steps were being taken.

“We have already started trucking water into the affected areas. We have addressed the areas that have the institutions like schools and clinics… and we have also embarked on setting up fixed storage tanks….”

Saunders called on residents in the areas to take advantage of the rainy season, by considering a water storage plan, since disruptions to their systems are usually the case around this time of the year.

He said that repairing the damage done by the landslide could cost the company upwards of $100,000.

The public was also informed by Assistant Commissioner of Police Christopher Benjamin that police would be in the area, in an initial role to provide guidance as to the new routes that should be taken; he also warned persons not to venture into the danger zones.

“Please comply with those instructions and even though the traffic personnel are not present, whatever traffic directions are there, just comply with them.

“And for those who want to go sightseeing, please avoid this area, because it would be at your own risk.”

Prince ended the press conference by reminding the public to take the necessary precautions, and called for patience during the reconstruction. (JJ)