Fuming hurricane victims say political bias driving their neglect

BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor special assignment browni@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, November 26, 2012

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Residents of the hurricane-ravaged community of Kensington in Portland are claiming that political biases have played a major role in them not getting any help to repair their badly damaged homes, one month after Hurricane Sandy hit the island, causing major damage in that Eastern parish.

According to the residents, some persons who suffered minor damage have since received financial assistance from the Government, while those who have been left homeless have not received as much as a tarpaulin to make a temporary roof over their heads.

A recent visit to the hilltop community revealed that a significant number of the houses were damaged when the storm pounded the coastal parish last month.

Tarpaulins still cover several roofs and homeowners continue to use concrete blocks to hold down the few sheets of zinc they were able to retrieve after the fierce wind took all in its path.

But the situation is even more dire for some families whose houses were demolished by the hurricane, leaving the occupants exposed to the open air.

While these persons are in desperate need of help, residents said their names did not make the list of those who have since received vouchers valued at $60,000 and $30,000.

Sherlette Wilson is still sleeping in a structure which is not high enough for her to walk upright, after the storm flattened her board house and left her homeless.

"Ah inna dat hut me sleep and me put up back dat little place beside it fi me daughter and har little baby fi stay," she said, pointing to the structure, while surveying the wreck which was once her home.

Her neighbours say they are advocating that she gets some help as no one should have to live that way.

Agnes Lindsay took the Jamaica Observer North East to view the outside kitchen where her daughter Maxine Lindsay is now living with her five children, ages six through 18, after the storm tore off the roof and weakened the board structure.

"All some people in a deck house (concrete roof) get money and it hard fi she and har five children a live inna one kitchen," she said.

Other desperate residents invited the Observer North East to view and take pictures of their damaged homes.

"You no think say is the people who badly damaged who fah name shoulda be on the list?" questioned Opal Vanwhervine.

She added further, "dem put politics in ah everything and now it is about ah who ah JLP (Jamaica Labour Party) and who ah PNP (People's National Party) and everybody need help because is breeze blow."

"See tree drop inna di woman house and yet dem say dat is not a major damage," Vanwhervine said.

The woman she referred to was senior citizen Clementine Irving, who said she would have been grateful had she received as much as two sheets of zinc.

Some residents say they have made repeated visits to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) office in Port Antonio to get help without success as the security guards are no longer allowing persons on the premises, because of the crowd.

Pauline Bryan said she has been staying with a sister since the storm's passage as the house she occupied for years is no longer habitable. Her cousin Briant Worghs was unable to find suitable alternative accommodation and has been forced to remain in the house which accumulates water whenever it rains.

"When it rain, ah whole heap a water me haffi ah sweep out and so me ketch up a bad cold and can't even go to me farm since," Worghs said, adding that he had to take the zinc from his fowl coup to make a temporary shelter for himself.

Meanwhile, Bryan pointed to several examples of other residents who have also not received any help despite having visible damage to show.

"My church sister is still living in the open element and all now she can't get no help," Bryan said, as she pointed out a number of houses draped with tarpaulin.

No official word, she said, has been communicated to some residents as to if or when they will get any help, although it is being speculated that a second list is to be prepared.

"I don't know if there is to be another list, but is the people who get damage worse should receive help first," Bryan said.

Although an entire section of Cecil Neufville's house was flattened, the senior citizen said he has not received as much as a tarpaulin to keep the rain out.

"When it rain me get wet like say is outside me dey," he complained.

Marsha Field said she was surprised to discover one night that her baby was soaked with rain water as he slept in his bed.

State minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Luther Buchanan, who has responsibility for the relief efforts, said checks will be made to verify the accuracy of the residents' claims. He explained further that 5,000 of the 14,000 cheques for damage have already been distributed.





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