‘Inconsiderate’ citizens cut riverbank, led to flooding
National Security Minister Stuart Young slammed perpetrators who he said removed material from the river banks, causing the rivers to breach their banks and flood parts of the Aranjuez North, Bamboo and surrounding areas.
Speaking at a media briefing on Monday with other Ministers to update the public on flood relief efforts, Young said an aerial survey of the flooded areas revealed that people had removed material from river banks which caused the rivers to breach, flooding several areas including Mt Lambert, Aranjuez North and Bamboo Nos. 1 and 3.
“What has happened is some very inconsiderate citizens have decided to remove the material that was used to build up these river banks.”
“There have been breaches along these river banks because people have decided, quite bluntly, to steal the material that the Ministry of Works and Transport and Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development put along some of these river banks."
“That has to be among some of the most irresponsible type of behaviour, to steal material from the state and thereby affect citizens…and destroy the hard work that was done,” he said.
Minister of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries, Clarence Rambharat said the last time Aranjuez farmers encountered flooding of this nature was in 1989.
He said they identified an area where part of the riverbank had been removed, creating an access point for the river to be breached.
“There has been interference with the bank. The Minister of Works and Transport circulated a drone to footage earlier this year of somebody removing soil from the Caroni Bank and taking it somewhere in Valsayn to backfill a place. We saw at least three areas in Aranjuez where that has been done.”
“In one area…you see the development taking place, you see a wall being built on the river bank, a fence and…a section of the 10-foot bank removed. That is significant because the major flooding in Aranjuez North is relating to that particular breach in the bank,” he said.
Riverine flood alert remains
Young warned that although Tropical Storm Karen has passed, Trinidad and Tobago may not be out of the woods yet regarding flooding.
He said he met with the Meteorological Service who indicated that there was still a chance of riverine flooding due to scattered showers on Monday afternoon.
He added that the country remains under a Riverine Flood Warning.
“If the Met Office is correct and we do start to experience rainfall with this high tide there may be flash flooding,” he said.
Young added that communities which suffered in 2018, such as Greenvale Park and Oropune Gardens, held up under heavy rainfall on Sunday, due in part to the remedial work carried out by the authorities.
“I saw first-hand from the air the type of work they have done in particular along the Greenvale area. At this time there have been no incidents (in Greenvale) and I can tell you, it’s because of the work that I saw that was done,” he said.
Young said he also just returned from a visit to Tobago to assess damages and works to be done on Monday.
“The communications in Tobago were down, unfortunately, there were still some issues but the General Manager of T&TEC was on the ground (with work crews) working hard to restore connectivity.”
Young said clean-ups are also underway in Scarborough following flooding on Sunday.
He said he has been liaising with Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), Kelvin Charles, to see what preventative measures can be taken moving forward.
Young also thanked the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, Disaster Management Units, the ODPM, the Met Office, Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force and other emergency responders for their hard work.
Minister: Highways, main roads clear
Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan said roadways are currently clear and the Ministry is continuing clean-up works.
He said the Curepe Interchange was also cleared and the Priority Bus Route, which was opened this morning, was again closed to vehicular traffic.
“That was a far cry from what happened a year ago with the same amount of rainfall…I am very happy that all our roadways are clear,” he said.
He said rivers remain at high levels however the Ministry continues to work to clear blockages from debris which may have flowed down during Sunday’s heavy rains.
Caroni River did not breach its banks
Sinanan added that due to the intense desilting programme carried out by his Ministry, the Caroni River did not breach its banks even after Sunday's heavy rains.
“I had to remind them that last year, one day after we got the downpour, we had to use army trucks to get in. This morning we drove in with our cars. That was a result of the amount of work that went into the rivers."
“These are the benefits of that major desilting programme. That entire area in Central was saved and this morning we saw the results of that.
Sinanan acknowledged that Bamboo #1 and #3 received heavy flooding and said more pumps will be installed in that area.
Sinanan said the reason Bamboo # 1 and #3 flooded this year was due to the San Juan River breaching its banks.
“The reason why the Bamboo area got (flooded) is because of the breach in the San Juan River. The Minister of Agriculture indicated as to why we got that breach, because of human interference on the banks."
Sinanan said all the rivers had been desilted and stood up the test of weather and time.
He said work crews remain on the ground and will continue to monitor the waterways.
Citizens are asked to continue to monitor updates via the Ministry’s social media channels and to monitor the Met Office for the latest updates.