Jamaica: Hurricane Dennis hits St. Thomas

While driving through Kingston's corporate area one would be led to believe that Hurricane Dennis had left Jamaica completely unscathed; that other than a few lightly flooded main roads there had really been no disaster and no emergency. However the parish of St. Thomas conveys otherwise as hundreds of families have been impacted by unprejudiced flood waters. Some persons were still recovering from Hurricane Ivan as Dennis hit, while others claim to have never witnessed this type of flooding before.
"Water came up over my back wall," said one resident, "it all happened so quickly, I stepped out of my bed and was in water."

In the community of 11 Miles, Bull Bay, residents continue working arduously to remove water and mud from their homes. The torrential rains have ceased momentarily and the flood waters have begun to recede. Pairs of shoes were left to dry in the yard along with mattresses, rugs and other personal belongings. Residents gathered by nearby springs and made spirited attempts to remove at least some of the mud from pieces of clothing.

Joan Cooper, Director of the St. Thomas Branch of the Jamaica Red Cross confirms the devastation in other communities such as Seaforth and Yallahs. "The Red Cross Branch has already served 68 families in Seaforth and 32 families in Yallahs by providing food packages, blankets and tarpaulins" she stated. Cooper, along with 20 volunteers, conducted damage and needs assessments in these communities along with other members of the Parish Disaster Committee. Red Cross volunteer Josette Smith said she had to exclaim at the amount of mud that she saw in residents' homes. "My feet sank in about 7-10 inches of mud when we went out to do the assessments," said Smith, "some of these people have lost everything."

Petula Barrett of Seaforth, otherwise known as Miss Esmie, bowed her head in defeat. "Miss I don't know where to start, look at my house," she said while pointing at her mud-ridden kitchen where some of her clothes were heaped in pails. "This is too much, I can't go through this again, I can't stay here, I don't know where to begin," she added. Barret used a stick to demonstrate the depth of the mud that flood waters had left behind. She added that she had lost some of her chickens as a result of the flooding.

According to the Office of Disaster Preparedness & Management approximately 58 communities have been affected islandwide by flooding and landslides. Several houses have been washed away in the communities of Mammee in St. Andrew, Mount Lebanus and Trinityville, St. Thomas. At this point the worst affected parishes are St. Thomas, Portland, St. Mary, St. Catherine, Kingston & St. Andrew and Clarendon. There have been no confirmed casualties. Dr. Barbara Carby, Director General of the ODPEM stated that at this time most shelters have been closed and persons have returned home to try to salvage what was left of their belongings.