About 140 residents of Sandy Bay, Owia, Fancy, London, Overland, Noel, and other North Windward communities which were negatively impacted by the eruptions of La Soufriere volcano, turned up at the Sandy Bay Primary School last Thursday, for a meeting with government officials to discuss the way forward.
Following the eruptions, the government instituted a recovery and rehabilitation programme to ensure the safety of returning residents to the Red Zone.
Director of the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) Michelle Forbes, said the agency had requested “the mapping and identification of homes that are in the Kara River, Kaio, London and some of the other rivers, there that we know you should not reoccupy.”
The Land and Surveys Department along with the Physical Planning Unit was tasked with identifying all the homes that were impacted or “Would be impacted in the future if we have more lahars coming down. We have about 72 homes that definitely should not be allowed to go back in some of these areas,” Forbes pointed out.
Town Planner Dornette Hull told residents that the government delegation was there to “consult with you. We want to hear from you, we want to understand the area, and understand how you feel so we can have open discussion.”
She added that “we have areas that have been mapped out that have been constantly affected by flooding from as far back as 2013. So we have narrowed down the four rivers that are highly impacted from flooding and from lahars.”
She noted that these rivers are Kaio, Noel, Agreka and London, and that “persons have been living in the river beds, the river banks, and have been adversely affected.”
A number of dwelling houses have been either destroyed or damaged over the ensuing period, and the residents of these homes have been unable to resettle.
“We are going to zone off those areas and these persons will be relocated,” Hull told the assembled residents.
“The forestry department will then come in and plant trees in the areas, and declare it a conservation zone. We need you to understand that living in the river bed is extremely dangerous, for we are in a multi-hazardous country.”
Hull further explained that those hazards such as landslides, flooding, and “everything is a threat to us. We need you to understand that these areas should not be settled because you will always have to be moving, you will always have to be running”.
The town planner added “we have some names and we have done several visits and have been able to get the homes owners names and we shall tighten up our list and ensure that anyone who is in immediate danger will be relocated, and you will not be allowed to go back to the area to build.”
Maps have been designed, along with a list of residents in order of priority for relocation, for the no-resettlement areas.
Some glitches, resulted in the curtailment of the meeting and residents were told that a subsequent meeting will be held.
One official told SEARCHLIGHT that there will be more public sensitisation leading up to that next meeting.
Residents from communities in the Red Zone were given the all clear to leave evacuation shelters by yesterday and return home.