Minister Harmon visits flood-hit Region Nine -commits to deploying State’s resources to assist affected residents
Georgetown, Guyana – (July 6, 2018) Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, today, visited the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo (Region Nine) where he charged the Regional Administration to work collectively with every stakeholder and to utilise every available State resource at its disposal to ensure that they serve the residents affected by flooding, even as the waters continue to recede after rising as much as five feet in some areas.
Minister Harmon, who first stopped at the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) Boardroom to meet with officials of the Regional Administration, Ministries and Government agencies, said that the Government is committed to bringing relief to the residents. As such, he told the officials that every effort must be made to reach every resident who has been affected by the flood, which resulted from the overtopping of several rivers, particularly the Takutu River, due to heavy rainfall in the region and over in neighbouring Brazil.
“It is important to us that we can respond to the needs of our citizens. I want to say that in a situation like this, we don’t have administration and others, we have one administration and so the resources of the administration must be put to the use of the people… if we have to take meals out to the people, we have to do so. When we speak about administration in these circumstances, we are talking about all of the resources of the region being applied to that situation. Every Government department must chip in with their resources so that the citizens are not affected in a major way. I am asking that we coordinate and cooperate where the resources of the region are concerned. This is not a normal situation and therefore, we have to act a little bit unusual. What that ‘unusualness’ means is that we have to pool our resources for the benefit of the people,” Minister Harmon said.
The State Minister said that the current weather patterns in the region and in Brazil will see the water rising and receding at frequent intervals, but with a coordinated approach, some semblance of order can exist. He acknowledged the rapid response by the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) and the Regional Administration, which have been working in tandem to respond and to continue to monitor the situation on the ground. At present, 59 persons have been evacuated and placed in three shelters which were established, and they are being tended by the region with support from the CDC.
“My visit here today is to confirm that those arrangements are working and it is to confirm that we have been able to provide the quality of resources that are necessary to take care of persons who have had to be evacuated because of the flooding. I visited one of the shelters and I am satisfied that the persons who have been placed there are comfortable. I am satisfied also that the Police have a plan for the security of the residences of those persons who are in shelters and they are doing active patrolling. I am satisfied that the doctor who is here has indicated that he has sufficient amount of medical supplies and if there is a need for more, he is in touch with the officer who is responsible for Material Management at the Ministry of Public Health. I am satisfied that the Environmental Officer and the Public Health Officer have done visits and they have given reports with respect to their responsibility. So all of that shows a coordinated effort,” Minister Harmon noted.
The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) has also be providing support through a boat shuttle service for residents from 06:00 hours to 18:00 hours every day. Minister Harmon noted that overall, he is satisfied with the arrangements put in place as the response and preparation this year has far surpassed those that were in place last year.
“Two years ago, when we had this situation, and this year I am happy to see that there is a greater level of coordination of the operations here and I am very pleased about that. So I am asking that you work together with the region,” he said.
The CDC, today, carried in the supplies requested by the region, including water purification tablets, collapsible bottles, detergents and cleaning supplies, beddings and blankets, among other materials. Minister Harmon noted that since the flooding is expected to be an annual occurrence, the administration will work to fast-track the construction of a bond for the CDC in the region, which will provide storage for materials in the event of a disaster.
“A few years ago, we identified some land here to build a bond for the CDC and we will have to fast-track that activity because it is not feasible to be moving heavy stuff from Georgetown or wherever it comes from, into Lethem during the flood. We have to learn how to adapt to these floods; these are natural phenomena so we have to plan around it. Our building codes, our agricultural codes and so on, must take cognisance of these realities… and so I will impress upon the CDC for us to expedite the construction of the CDC’s bond here,” the Minister said.
Meanwhile, Regional Chairman, Mr. Brian Allicock, in an invited comment, said that the water has begun to recede, although it remains high in some areas. The region, he noted, is continuously monitoring the communities in the South Rupununi, particularly since 31 of the villages have had their access cut off due to the floodwaters. However, he said that he remains hopeful that the water would recede by this evening.
“Yesterday we got scared because the water was coming in so rapidly, but thank God this morning the water stopped coming in. What is happening is that it is going and coming. In the forecast from Brazil, there is rain for the next couple of days and we have a back-up of the waters in the rivers over there into the Takutu. Currently, we cannot access Karasabai by road and even when you go by boat, you have to wade through waist-high water to get into the village so they are totally cut off. The South villages, 31 villages in total, have been cut off. Nothing can go in or come out so far, but the water is receding and I hope to hear positive news,” Mr. Allicock said.
The CDC continues to monitor the situation in the region and will provide support as it becomes necessary.