'The water was about 10 feet or more'

'Lawd, it a come, it a come,' Sunnyside resident recalls flooding horror

BY RACQUEL PORTER
Observer staff reporter
porterr@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, May 17, 2017



Frantic cries for help from neighbours jolted Angela Lewis from her sleep about 2:00 am yesterday, alerting her to the danger she, her relatives and other residents of Sunnyside, Linstead, St Catherine, faced from rising, angry flood waters.“I heard someone calling for help. I got up and looked through my window and saw a lot of water on the road,” Lewis told the Jamaica Observer. “I was saying to myself, 'Oh, my God'. So I woke my mom and two nieces. When we got up we realised that this not something to play with. The water came in from the back and the front. When I pulled the grille to go outside I realised that I couldn't manage. I started to wonder what next to do.”

Her main concern at that time, she said, was her mother, who has difficulty walking.

“I was wondering what to do with her, but then I remembered that there is a kitchen counter [so] we lift her and put her on the counter,” Lewis explained, adding that she started praying for the dawn to come quickly.

By then, most of the community was flooded as the Rio Magna was in spate.

“The water was about 10 feet or more, that was how high the water was,” she said. “The water was almost level to the window. So we are not talking about a little bit of water. We are talking about a whole heap of water.”

To prove her claim, Lewis pointed to a truck she said was parked on the road and which was overturned by the volume and force of the water.

A fire truck, she said, arrived approximately 4:30 am, but the crew had to wait until the water subsided before they could start rescuing residents.

Lewis, who has been living in the community for just over a year, said it was not raining heavily at the time of the flooding. As such, she said the water must have been coming from elsewhere to cause such a catastrophe.

Despite the damage to her furniture, appliances, groceries and personal belongings, Lewis expressed gratitude that no lives were lost during the ordeal.

Lewis's mother, 83-year-old Mavis Burke, was shaken by the experience.

“It was very frightening. Is the first I am seeing something like this. Where I lived before, nothing like this never happen,” Burke said.

“It just come down sudden. My daughter woke me up and I was standing at the grille looking out. While I was standing there I saw the water coming and I said 'Lawd, it a come, it a come,' and I ran back inside. My daughter and my niece lift me and put me on the counter,” the senior citizen explained.

Another resident, Rockisha Francis, said a house close to Lewis's and belonging to a member of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coast Guard, who was on duty at sea, was almost covered with water.

The sailor's relatives, who were seen inside the house trying to retrieve important documents, said when news broke that the community was under water they were concerned.

“It is really heartbreaking to know that he is just starting out and this is what happened,” Francis said as she helped the sailor's sister and mother locate the documents.

“His mother called me this morning and we were worried about the house, so we decided to come. When we came, the entire place was covered with water,” Francis explained, adding that the water subsided after 9:00 am.

The sound of bamboo breaking was Eugenie Rule's cue to relocate to higher ground, but that did not happen.

Rule, while noting that she is always on the alert, said about 2:00 am her son told her that he was going to check the river.

“When him tek the flashlight and go and look him say, 'Mommy, it reach up on the bank'. Mi get up and say, mi a go tek the bed and put it up, but the water meet mi inside, so I had to just come out and go upstairs,” she said as she stood inside her yard looking at her house.

Rhule, who is also a shopkeeper, said she lost all her stock.

“The refrigerator turn over and mash up. The bun and the bread in the glass case, everything gone,” she said.

The Observer was told that a family of four, including two young children, who sought refuge on a perimeter wall was rescued by JDF soldiers and the Jamaica Fire Brigade hours after their house was flooded.

Angela Jackson, another resident, also expressed gratitude that no lives were lost.

“We have life, so we a give thanks,” Jackson said.

Councillor Sydney Rose (PNP, Treadways Division), who visited the community, said he received a telephone call about 3:00 am that residents of Rose Hall, Sunnyside and Torah were marooned.

Rose said he sought assistance from the JDF and the Linstead Fire Brigade, and when he arrived the residents who were trapped inside their houses were crying out for help.

“Thanks to the military, who responded quickly in terms of assisting with their helicopter,” Rose said. “One came and retrieved some people who were stranded in a house close by. The fire brigade came with their little boats and ropes. I really want to commend the quick response by the emergency team.”

Evidence of heavy flooding was also visible on the Bog Walk main road, Linstead main road, and Devil's Race Course, as the buildings had high water marks.

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