For generations, residents living on the Union River banks in Lauders have kept a wary eye on the nearby river which is known to transform itself into a terrifying force during the rainy season. The pounding of huge boulders tumbling along with the river water create an awful sound they have learned to endure.
Additionally, there have been times when the water rose to such levels that the yards of many houses were flooded. Parents feared for the lives of their children, and kept one eye on the upper reaches of the river, and another on the weather.
Such was life for 62-year old Cecilia who told SEARCHLIGHT last Monday that she lifted her hands in praise when the river defense wall was completed a few weeks ago.
“O I am very happy. I no longer have to wake up in the night when it rains heavy to see what is happening. Today there is a wall and my house is safe,” she said.
She feared that the foundation of her house would be compromised, but with a retaining wall, she is happy that she and her family now have very little to worry about at nights.
“I sleep very good at nights since the wall was built…while there is no bridge to cross the river, I am thankful, for our lives are much safer now.”
Just across the river Clare Elles and her niece Cameisha live in separate houses in one yard.
“I have been living here for my entire life…when the heavy water comes down the river I do not have to wonder if water will come up into the yard and maybe into the house or anything like that anymore,”Cameisha said in reference to the newly built wall.
She said while the children loved playing down at the water’s edge, but they can no longer do so because of the presence of the wall, she believes “it is for their safety”. “There is no longer any easy access to the river anymore, but they are safe now. If it is raining they can stand in the yard and look at the water in the river, but we can say that their lives are out of danger.”
Her aunt Claire, said construction of the river defense wall is one of the best things to have happened since they have been living there.
Now, “We can leave our homes and feel good, we can sleep better at nights.”
This Government initiative, under the Natural Disaster Management Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Hurricane Tomas North Windward Project, has been delivered with funding from the Caribbean Development Bank.
One official who is linked to the project told SEARCHLIGHT that the most critical safety component he sees is that the foundations of the houses have been secured.
“One can be in their house at night sleeping, no rain has fallen for some time, and suddenly the house collapses because over a period of time, because of the constant battering by the river, the foundations would have weakened.”
Work is continuing to construct drains to channel run-off water from the slopes away from houses, into the river.