Sheer fright!

Landslide that cut off Portland community almost crushed taxi with five people

Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

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Albert Appleby was one of five people travelling in a taxi on the Moore Town road in Portland during heavy rains Saturday when he heard a deafening rumble coming from above.

The driver, Appleby said, informed them that the road was cracking and urged them to exit the vehicle and “push” while he put the vehicle in reverse.

About a minute later, boulders and mud came crashing down, blocking the road and creating a mound of mud, about 20 feet high, which effectively cut off a section of Moore Town and all of Cornwall Barracks.

“Mi look up pon the top and see something a drop dung. When wi realise what really a gwaan wi get up and tek off. Wi mek one run and end up under the shed. One lady, she so frighten she drop her phone and run. A one woman weh a run behind her pick it up and run. It frighten wi. Pure noise, and when wi look, pure mud and stone,” Appleby told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

The vehicle was headed to Port Antonio when the incident occurred, shortly after 8:00 am. None of the five people in the vehicle were injured.

“I never even turn back to look, to how I frighten. Mi just run down inna the valley. Mi a tell you, if the girl did have heart problem she drop dung,” Appleby said in reference to the woman who picked up the cellphone.

Appleby operates a small business in Cornwall Barracks, a community with a population of approximately 2,000 which has been completely cut off to vehicular traffic.

As a result, Appleby said that he was forced to top up the prices on certain goods because transportation, since Saturday, has cost him more than $1,000 for each trip.

On the Cornwall Barracks side of the blockage, several residents braved the conditions to cross the mud mound in order to go about their business — some barefooted while others sported water boots. Among them was 87-year-old Cornwall Barracks resident Vashti Smith, who was seen being assisted across the mound by a man in the community.

She told the Observer that she was making the difficult trek to Port Antonio because she had to pay her electricity bill.

“Mi haffi go and pay it, because none nuh come and it due,” Smith said. “Mi nuh really fraid, 'cause mi have help fi go cross,” the woman said.

Karleen Mills stood with her arms folded, contemplating the safest way to navigate the mud mound now standing between the community and the rest of the country. She said community life had quickly changed with prices going up, although she understood that it was necessary.

“Punish poor people a get punish 'cause wi nuh have nuh road now. Quarter a bread a fi $90. [Before now] it was $75, and it reach $80, and since this, $90. But the prices haffi guh up, Mum because a nuh water run dis thing. Remember, they have to take two vehicles — one from Port Antonio to here — pay man to carry cross the goods, and then get another vehicle fi take it to the community.

Mills pointed to another difficulty created for the community by the landslide.

“The kids dem now need to go to school,” she said. “We, as parents, we cannot send the kids dem on the road like that unprotected, because you don't know what can happen. We have pregnant people living in the community. One woman was in labour the other day and they had to take her down in a gutter to get her out. So we don't know what will take place.”

Taxi operator Denton Smith lamented that the conditions, created by a trough that the Meteorological Service said was moving across the island, were affecting his ability to earn a living.

“It is very bad, 'cause wi livelihood cut off and wi don't know how long it is going to take to sort out. We're hoping for some urgent solution,” said Smith, who has been operating in the area for approximately 15 years, and who admitted that he had never seen anything like this before.

He said the fare he charges from the community to Port Antonio was $200, but it has now been cut to under $100.

“Wi need the road to fix, and if not right away, cut a track where we can walk,” he recommended.

Amidst the hardship, one enterprising resident, Sean McFarlane, is capitalising on the inconvenience.

He charges between $200 and $400 to take residents' goods across the high mud mound.

“Mi a help out, but mi just a charge a small fee,” he said.

Although clean-up activities are under way, concerns remain over the state of the main road.




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