Wednesday 22 May, 2019

Broken bridge leaves villagers trapped in Vega de Oropouche

Photo: A photo of the bridge connecting a village in Vega de Oropouche to the rest of the country after flooding took place from October 19-22, 2018.

Photo: A photo of the bridge connecting a village in Vega de Oropouche to the rest of the country after flooding took place from October 19-22, 2018.

Children have been unable to attend school and families have been separated from the outside world after the wooden bridge connecting their village in Vega de Oropouche, Valencia, to the rest of the country was destroyed during heavy flooding in October 2018.

The area, which consists of a mix of residential and farmlands, has been operating via a precarious wooden bridge for the past 10 years, despite pleas by farmers and villagers in the area for a proper bridge. 

Suresh Singh, a 58-year-old farmer who grows peppers, ochroes and paw-paw, said for years he has contributed wood and other materials from his own land in order to maintain access to the village via the wooden bridge. 

However following raging flood waters last weekend, which devastated hundreds of homes in Sangre Grande, the bridge was again destroyed, forcing villagers to have to walk almost a mile to the bridge in order to access the outside world.

Singh added that some residents were trying to cross the bridge when it broke, throwing them into the raging water. Luckily, they were able to swim to safety.

"Over the weekend the bridge collapsed, the people who lived inside were trying to cross and they fell in the water, but thank God they could swim."

"This situation is bad, there are little children who live up there and they cannot go to school. There are also about 15 other farmers there and we cannot get our produce out. I have a tractor but I have to carry the battery up to it every day in order to see about the land, then cart the battery back again. 

Singh also mentioned the presence of concrete bridges nearby for other farmlands which remain unused. 

"Would you believe that is the main bridge to go inside the village, but much further in, where nobody goes, there is a concrete bridge? Concrete bridges were built for other lots, but still no concrete bridge for the main village."

“We have been begging for a bridge for years, there are so many people here who need it. I have supplied board and logs for that bridge a few times well. Everyone can vouch for that, I’ve helped them and gave them the logs for my land and made sure they had enough materials, with no compensation.

"After those floods, the bridge is now completely gone. Plus, the gap is getting wider and wider because the land is eroding," he said. 

Singh said so far, families have been able to get groceries by walking almost a mile to the broken bridge where a friend with a car was willing to take them to the nearby supermarket. 

However, he said the situation is precarious and a child might easily be injured if trying to cross. 

"They managed to pull some of the loose logs over so they can cross, but it can collapse at any time," he said. 

Singh added that councillor for the area, Anil Juteram, is aware of the matter, and added that he has also contacted the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation. 

He said a bailey bridge should be installed as soon as possible until a concrete bridge can be built. 

" I've been up there for about 16 yrs and I’ve been lobbying for years for this bridge to be set up. We got the roads paved up in there. Ever since I’ve been up there, I’ve been fixing roads."

“Every time they repaired the bridge it was only wooden boards. We need to do this thing properly. There are little children going out, next thing you know they fall in the water and hurt themselves," he said. 

Singh although his farmlands, which are on higher ground, were not affected by the flooding, he resides in Sangre Grande and said he said he has never seen flooding in all his years. 

"In all the years I have lived there, I never saw Sangre Grande flood like that before. The water never came into the house before. It was terrible."

“My friend is high off the ground and he got wet there. It was like a lake, this was the worst ever. These people who are affected, they need to be saved," he said. 

Singh added that the distribution of flood relief seemed to be uneven as he had relatives who had been affected but had not received any aid. 

“There are people who need to get and they pass them straight, and that is not fair because everybody got affected in that area. My grand-niece and nephew got hit hard. People were dropping water and they passed them straight. The regional corporation should go around and drop these things off by the houses to ensure everyone in need gets," he said 

Singh added that his call comes not just for himself, but al those who live in Vega de Oropouche.

"I’m not just doing this for myself, this is for all the farmers and families there, they need help," he said. 

LoopTT has reached out to the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation for feedback.

 

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