Wet Season Watch: Penal/Debe

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    A photo of flooding in Debe in December 2019

    The rainy season has started in T&T and the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation is bracing for floods, potentially as bad as the ones that devastated communities last year.

    On Saturday, the Met Service officially declared the start of the season and highlighted elevated levels of concern for flooding, particularly between June and August.

    Speaking to 103.1FM News today, Penal/Debe Regional Corporation Chairman Dr Allen Sammy says not enough preparation has been done. He says, “Penal/Debe itself, as a corporation, has responsibility for 99 water courses. We have cleaned all of our water courses and continue to clean them not always to our satisfaction. Sometimes it requires an excavator which we don’t have. But we do what we can with our machinery. The thing is, the bigger water courses are really the Ministry of Works Drainage Division and that’s where the challenges are. And they are certainly not ready. They’ve only done parts of three water courses, um actually, only two in the Penal/Debe region that I know of and they’ve done other works – other parts of water courses. But not the kind of comprehensive cleaning that is required. So no we are not ready and yes we’ll be flooded again and very badly.”

    Given that the corporation is the first responder to a disaster, Dr Sammy says they have done what they can with their resources, noting, “We have, for example, have ordered 3,000 bags, this is the sand bags. We get the empty bags and, of course, we fill them. We have ordered all the other things that go with it. The dinghies, for example, I believe this week they’re going to float them again to ensure that the dinghies are ready. We make sure the power saws are operational – whatever is required if you have to go out in a flooded area or if you need to cut down trees that are in the way and so on.”

    Dr Sammy says the corporation continues to have a close relationship with other responding agencies such as the Fire Service and Defence Force. However, he believes there is work the State can do to help ease the flooding woes. He says, “I’ve read where the minister said, not this Sunday – the last Sunday, that there are 85 water courses in the Penal/Debe region which they want to clean over a four year period or a four-phase period taking five years. If they can expedite at least the first or second phases, both phases together, then it will help. Because we can show them where the water courses are clogged, where it needs immediate remedial relief. But they just don’t have the machinery to do it and I think they don’t have the management skill either, in my view, quite frankly.”