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Emergency! Rowley sounds alarm over bad weather

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Vishanna Phagoo An area in Bamboo #3, Valsayn under floodwaters after heavy showers on Saturday. - JEFF K MAYERS
An area in Bamboo #3, Valsayn under floodwaters after heavy showers on Saturday. - JEFF K MAYERS

The Prime Minister sounded the alarm in a statement on Saturday describing the bad weather as a "weather emergency."

"The international forecasts are for further incoming heavy rainfall over the next two days. Already there is significant damage to our road infrastructure in very many parts of the country. We are anticipating increased flooding and landslides in susceptible areas. Citizens are requested to be very alert to these dangers and, as far as feasible, restrict your movements until the dangers have passed or are abated," Dr Rowley said in a statement posted on Facebook early Saturday morning. He said all arms and agencies of state are fully mobilised.

Later at an emergency press conference, Local Government and Rural Development Minister Faris Al-Rawi, Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan and Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds reinforced this warning.

Rowley also included a YouTube video from an online weather blogger to support his statement and during the question-and-answer segment, Al-Rawi said the information came from multiple official sources.

During the ministers' presentations, Al-Rawi and Sinanan urged people not to leave their homes unless necessary.

This warning comes as there have been multiple reports of flash flooding, landslips, fallen trees and rivers reaching or exceeding its capacity throughout the day.

Al-Rawi added that there would be more rainfall within the next five to six days and the Met Office also extended its yellow-level weather alert from midday Saturday to midday on Monday.

The last press conference the ministry had regarding bad weather was on October 6 where Al-Rawi expressed his condolences on a Lopinot woman Theresa Lynch who was swept away by raging waters in the Lopinot River. Her body was found days later.

Al-Rawi said that TT is not under any sort of organised weather system but the country will see a significant amount of rainfall. The Met Office says TT was experiencing a "low-level trough."

"We are taking the caution to warn that we do expect significant flooding issues in a circumstance where people wouldn't normally expect it because there wasn't a trigger," Al-Rawi said.

Sinanan was more cryptic: "We have to just prepare for the worst and hope for the best."

"If you can avoid going on the road network, please do not go on the road network because it can complicate things for the movement of equipment and so and you can be trapped in the floodwaters. Please, do not take it for granted that your area has not flooded in the past because this is unprecedented rainfall."

Residents of Mayfield Drive, North Valsayn clean up after flooding in their neighbourhood on Saturday. - SUREASH CHOLAI

He said those who rely on public transportation can still depend on it as the services were not suspended.

"I am going to co-ordinate with the Public Service Transport Commission (PTSC) should in case we have to evacuate people or move people, we would have the PTSC buses on standby."

Sinanan added that the Manzanilla/Mayaro Road is closed on both ends with work to begin once the water in the Nariva Swamp has naturally subsided. The road was closed on Wednesday as part of it collapsed.

Hinds said all the divisions of National Security are ready to offer any sort of help to those in need. He added the Office of Preparedness and Disaster Management (ODPM) will continue to monitor, assess the situation and help out when needed.

Hinds added, "They (the TTPS) are paying particular attention to the roadways to ensure that there is movement and that criminals, quite frankly, who will seek to capitalise and be opportunistic under these circumstances will not have their way."

He said all fire stations are on high alert and the land search and rescue teams are as well.

Al-Rawi urged those who have been affected by the bad weather to call their respective regional corporations and alert them of their current situation. He said at the time there was no need for the use of shelters, but they were available for those needing them.

Both Sinanan and Al-Rawi also urged people to steer clear of fake news as it can cause unnecessary panic. Al-Rawi said there were 771 municipal officers out and some of them had to extend resources to verify which social media reports were real.

Al-Rawi assured that all resources were deployed to assist those in need and asked people to call their respective Disaster Management Units for further help.

He said areas affected included Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo, Diego Martin, Penal/Debe, Sangre Grande and San Juan and that rising rivers were at 75-85 per cent capacity.

He said the only confirmed overflowing river, at that time, was the Carolina Bridge in Couva. He added that the Guayaguayare/Poole River was already at 96 per cent capacity with more rainfall expected for the next five or six days.

He said there were instances of flash flooding at Abattoir Road in Port of Spain, ten flooded areas in Couva, one landslip in Grapefruit Crescent, Diego Martin, one landslip on the Manzanilla Road with nine flooded areas. He said the relevant equipment to rectify the situation has been deployed and work was being done.

He added that there were two significant landslips in San Juan, Quarry Drive, Champs Fleurs and on Lady Young Road, Morvant. There were also reports of landslips at Lady Hailes Avenue, San Fernando and Maracas Royal Road in Tunapuna with three flooded areas in Sangre Grande.

Al-Rawi warned people to conserve water as many water treatment plants in North East and North West and Tobago have been affected.