Georgie Gutter family homeless after landslide
August 24, 2010
Georgie Gutter family homeless after landslide

A Georgie Gutter family of three was forced to leave their home of over 20 years after a landslide damaged a section of the two-bedroom home.{{more}}

Ingrid Charles, her husband Grafton Charles and son David Soleyn, were at their home on Wednesday, August 18, when a landslide took place shortly after 11p.m. showering their home with debris.

The National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) has since relocated the family to Fountain, and they might have been spared the worst as more debris landed on their Georgie Gutter house over the weekend.

Recalling Wednesday night’s frightening experience, Ingrid told SEARCHLIGHT the landslide came unexpected.

“It was not raining before it happened,” Ingrid recalled, adding that her family had never experienced anything like that since living in the area.

The occupants had already retired for the night, but Ingrid was kept awake by a two-week-old lamb which she bottle-feeds.

“I heard it bawling for like an hour and it got really overbearing,” the woman told SEARCHLIGHT.

She added: “I got up and decided that since it had already gotten three bottles of tea, I will give it a bottle of water.”

While tending to the animal, Ingrid said she saw three pieces of debris roll down the bank situated behind her house, but thought nothing of it.

As soon as she got into the house, she said, “there was a loud ‘boom’, as if a stone had hit the house roof.”

Ingrid said that she called out to her 21-year-old son, and immediately ran to the living room where she met him already standing in the hallway.

Upon investigation, they discovered chunks of concrete on his bed.

Ingrid said at that point she realised that the situation was far worse than she had anticipated.

The impact of the debris cracked walls, broke off pieces of concrete, smashed a door and a window of Soleyn’s bedroom.

More bad news came to the family as the Buildings, Roads and General Services Agency (BRAGSA) and the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) advised them that it had become unsafe to continue living at the location.

Roxanne Marshall, Communications Officer at BRAGSA, confirmed that the site was indeed unsafe.

Marshall indicated that two engineers visited the area last Thursday morning and determined that, based on the types of soil and the lack of proper drainage, the property was at risk.

Michele Forbes, Director of NEMO (Ag), when contacted by SEARCHLIGHT on Friday, August 20, said that plans were being finalised for the relocation of Ingrid and her family and that she (Forbes) was waiting on Ingrid to make the final decision as to a suitable location.

“I will be checking in with her because I don’t want to keep her waiting too long for a place to stay,” Forbes explained.

Meanwhile, Forbes contended that the issue of informal settlement was proving to be a challenge for NEMO.

Her statement was made in a general context and not directly related to the Georgie Gutter case. Forbes disclosed that she was finalizing a report on the issue of informal settlements to send to the Prime Minister.

“This is something we need to have a clear policy on,” she said, noting that unless persons are seeking loans from a bank or other lending institutions, there is a tendency not to seek Planning’s approval before proceeding with constructing.

“We need to know to what extent NEMO will help those who have not sought planning’s permission,” said Forbes.

“Personally, I cannot make a decision and this is where it becomes frustrating as a disaster manager,” Forbes stated.

“When people’s lives have been disrupted, how do I tell them that they are in an informal settlement and we cannot facilitate them?” she asked.

“It becomes very heart breaking,” she added.

Forbes said that NEMO was currently engaged on working on a programme to teach persons how to build for disasters and even after a disaster occurred, how to build better. (DD)