November 5, 2010
BRAGSA: Clean-up activities extensive

With more than sixty per cent of the blocked roads in St. Vincent and the Grenadines cleared of debris in the wake of Hurricane Tomas, focus will now be heavily placed on clean up.{{more}}

So says Chief Executive Officer of the Roads, Bridges and General Services Authority (BRAGSA) Brian George.

George was speaking during visits to numerous affected areas on Wednesday, November 3, during which he indicated that the last of the blocked roads will be made passable by the end of that day, and that efforts were being made to have the uprooted trees along with mud and dirt removed from the sides of the roads.

“What we are going to be occupied with for at least another week is clean up…. The clean up activities are going to be extensive – just picking up the branches and trash alone; that is going to take us a while.”

George said that one of the last roads to remain impassible to vehicles was in Ottley Hall, where a huge tree and debris had slipped into a side road, taking out the house occupied by Racquel Jessop in the process.

George explained that the majority of roads that had been blocked were situated mainly on the North Central Windward, South Windward, Marriaqua and North Central Windward areas; extensively the highways, village roads as well as the feeder roads.

According to George, there had been a number of land slippages reported as recently as Wednesday, November 3, including at La Croix and Reeves Level, which George and other BRAGSA officials visited.

At La Croix, just after 9am, a portion of embankment slid into the main highway, completely blocking access and forcing traffic to be diverted while the area was being cleared.

Utility poles belonging to the St. Vincent Electricity Services (VINLEC) were destroyed by the slippage. This has further caused the delay of electricity to residents in that area.

In the North Central Windward village of Reeves Level, crews were also present removing debris from the area, which occupied one half of the highway.

George also hinted that there is the possibility that land slides may reoccur in some areas, if the rains continue to fall, and there is every likelihood that this will be the case.

“It (rain) is making a difficult task just a little bit more difficult because the rains are going to compound the land slides, and this has been an ongoing problem we have had for the last two months.”

“It has been a very wet rainy season, so it doesn’t take that much rain for there to be land slides, because the soil is already very saturated.”

George disclosed that the concern of a recurring landslide in the Belmont area has caused the company to hold talks with a landowner with regard to demolishing one of his structures, for fear that it might collapse onto the main road below it.

The CEO also disclosed that there was not as much major infrastructural damage as had been expected, except for a road in the Hopewell, Mesopotamia, area, and next to the Levi Latham Health Centre, also in Marriaqua.

He noted that there were also land slides in the Hermitage and Lowmans Windward areas, which now require the need for the construction of retaining walls there.

“Although there was extensive damage to homes, the only government properties to receive major structural damage were the Georgetown Primary School and the Troumaca Secondary School.”

“The damaged wing of the primary school which lost its roof will take another week to repair. Troumaca also lost its roof and will also take some time to be ready as well.”

Asked if there were any lessons learnt in the wake of Hurricane Tomas, George acknowledged that there were areas where BRAGA could improve and indicated that they would be working towards those ends.

“We perhaps underestimated the need for tree cutting equipment, or the extent of having that tree cutting ability across the country; that has ended up being a slight bottleneck.”

“I think we were lucky because we did not have as many landslides of dirt as perhaps could have happened if we had perhaps the amount of rains that St. Lucia had, but with the wind damage and the trees falling, one of the areas that we need to focus on is that ability to mobilize on a national level, for tree cutting exercises. That presented us with some problems.”

Apart from the hundreds of persons and dozens of trucks hired to remove debris around the island, George also acknowledged the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, as well as the International Airport Development Corporation and others for their assistance. (JJ)