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Residents resort to rafts as Matty Hole flooded second time in 20 years

Observer correspondent

Friday, January 12, 2018

Residents of the small farming communities of Darley, Bourbon, and Maidstone in Portland have not only lost crop and livestock to the heavy rains that pelted the island over the past week, but they are also experiencing severe inconvenience travelling to and from Port Antonio, as the main access area, called Matty Hole, is now a lake.

The water, estimated to be about 15 feet deep, has covered a play field and banana trees, forcing residents to use rafts or trespass on private property to get in and out of their communities.

According to the residents, Matty Hole is named after a woman who drowned there many years ago. This is the fourth time the area has been flooded, the last time being 20 years ago, on January 4, 1998. On that occasion, Jamaica Defence Force engineers used a pump to clear the water off the land.

The recent rains have scoured some sections of the road.

Yesterday, Michael Burgess, one of the youngsters who was seen operating a raft, told the Jamaica Observer that since the flooding episode, some individuals felt it would be a good idea to have a raft.

“So we made two that we have been using to transport persons across. Without the rafts we would have to travel in the bush across people's farms,” he said.

“We can't get to play any football. People shop flood out, dem lose chickens also. It has affected children going to school. I hope something is done soon as it will get stagnant and have mosquitoes, and that is not good,” Burgess said.

The rafts take about five minutes to go from one end to the other.

“Is not the first I see it,” said Gary, one of the farmers who suffered loss. “Twenty years ago we had it and it come back here now same way, but the water even higher. The problem is the road block off and we have no access road through the mountain.”

He said that most of his farm — on which he planted cabbage, pumpkins, plantains, Irish potatoes, dasheen, yellow yam, and pepper — is under water.

Dasheen and plantain farmer Clifton said his pr operty received very little damage. He suggested the opening of a new road or that the road to St Margaret's Bay be cleared, “but it's a lot of work” he acknowledged.

Milton Williams said he lost two colonies of bees, 14 pigs, and some goats. “What I think they should do is cut a road across as I think that would be easier, and [build] a bridge also, instead of going around,” Williams said, adding that the rain also destroyed his Irish potatoes and some tomatoes.

Another farmer, Steve Thompson, who also operates a raft, described the flooding as “devastating”. He said he lost livestock and crops such as dasheen and plantain.

“The money that we put in just gone. This morning I went to plant some pepper and I hope for the best,” Thompson said.

Chester Rooper said the flooding has resulted in them now paying $1,000, up from a maximum of $500, to travel to and from Port Antonio.

“It is dangerous going through the water on the raft due to the power lines, so I hope it is fixed soon. The water dig up the road and you can see the rocks,” he pointed out.

Yesterday, the Claverty Cottage road remained blocked, but the road at Barry Hill was cleared, allowing vehicular access to Cornwall Barracks.