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Major landslide destroys St James home


Kelia Logan is greeted by a backyard full of earth and rubble caused by a landslide that crumbled a retaining wall at the back of her home on John Street, St James, on Tuesday. Luckily no one was seriously hurt during the incident.
See page 11. – AYANNA KINSALE

A major landslide in St James instantly swallowed up one home on Tuesday and is now threatening approximately 15 families living in a nearby private three-storey rental complex.

Owner of the one-bedroom house at Fort George Road, Venessa Wickham, told Newsday a large crack developed on the east side of the yard on November 8.

“I call so many agencies and no one came. It stopped and then Monday at 2.30 am I heard as if someone was throwing stones in a canal.

“I said to myself, ‘Who throwing stone.’ Then I heard something drop on the house.”

At first, she thought it was her pet iguana walking on the galvanised roof.

Vanessa Wickham looks at her damaged house on Fort George Road after it collapsed during heavy rainfall on Tuesday. – AYANNA KINSALE

“I said, ‘What igy (the Iguana) doing up there this hour of the morning.’ But then I hear a ‘boop’ like something dropped.

“I got up to see what it was. And when I put my food on the ground, I realised the side with the bed I was on had dropped, so I had to step up so I could step out.”

At that time, she still had not realised what was happening to her home as the landslide quietly pulled down the columns under the building.

While standing on the uneven side of the bedroom she immediately sent out emergency text messages to her daughter, sister, common-law husband and the councillor of the area (Camille Mc Dougall.)

“It was my brother-in-law who came over and told me to pack a bag and come out of here because this not making any sense.

“From the time I came out and saw what was happening, I started to move out things from inside the house.”

She was able to move all furniture, appliances, clothing and other personal items before the land shifted and swallowed up the entire house leaving three people homeless.

Vanessa Wickham, left, and her sister Arlene Scantlebury look at her damaged house on Fort George Road after a landslide caused its collapse during heavy rainfall on Tuesday. – AYANNA KINSALE

“We moved the machine just in the nick of time, because about one hour after, the entire house started to sink. It wasn’t shifting from the left or right, it was literally sinking into the earth. I sat and watched it.

“When it happened I had fear, I was in a mess, but now I feel okay. I know I lost the house but I still feel good because I didn’t lose my life.”

She estimates over $100,000 in losses.

Wickham is happy to escape with her life and all of her possessions but she fears for her neighbours whose apartments lie at the bottom of the landslide.

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The apartments could be seen from the top of the landslide.

Newsday went into John Street to the main entrance to get to that apartment and, from that point, there is a clear view of the landslide from above.

The retaining wall to the apartment complex had been breached and dirt, large stones, a 500-gallon water tank and other debris is already blocking the entrance of three apartments on the ground floor.

One tenant said he is uneasy.

Speaking on condition of anonymity he said, “I keep checking, again and again, to see if it moves more because there is nothing to hold back the amount of dirt that landslide will bring. The retaining wall is gone. We are open for whatever will come next.”

Another tenant said he was worried by the different possible outcomes but had no intention of evacuating.

“I will just move with caution and watch the scene like everybody else, because nobody else evacuating.”

Even though the Met Office predicts an ease up in torrential rains over the next 24 hours, the residents fear the nearby homes will be at risk because the landslide is already at an advanced stage.

Sigler Jack, chairman of the Diego Martin Regional Corporation, could not be reached for comment.

Anyone willing to assist Wickham can call 7549308.