Tue | Mar 2, 2021

NEAR DEATH - Girl survives river’s clutches as rains turn Nine Miles into disaster zone

Published:Tuesday | November 10, 2020 | 12:11 AMJonielle Daley/Gleaner Writer
Kemar King shovels away sand and stones that submerged his sister’s cars in Nine Miles, St Andrew, on Monday after the Chalky River dumped tons of silt on the rain-ravaged community on the weekend.
Kemar King shovels away sand and stones that submerged his sister’s cars in Nine Miles, St Andrew, on Monday after the Chalky River dumped tons of silt on the rain-ravaged community on the weekend.
Fitzgerald Benjamin sits atop his 12ft-high roof after his yard was swamped with silt after the Chalky River broke its banks on the weekend.
Fitzgerald Benjamin sits atop his 12ft-high roof after his yard was swamped with silt after the Chalky River broke its banks on the weekend.
Marsha Smart, 39, of Weise Road in Nine Miles, St Andrew, is assisted by family in washing mud and silt from clothes and other items after their yard was flooded.
Marsha Smart, 39, of Weise Road in Nine Miles, St Andrew, is assisted by family in washing mud and silt from clothes and other items after their yard was flooded.
Henry Lewis, who saved 11-year-old Tiandra Robinson from the clutches of the Chalky River in Nine Miles.
Henry Lewis, who saved 11-year-old Tiandra Robinson from the clutches of the Chalky River in Nine Miles.
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Victoria Johnson, still traumatised by a weekend of wretched weather, was unable to eat the food handed her by a neighbour in Nine Miles, St Andrew, on Monday.

The 74-year-old clung to her doorjamb while remembering how the swollen Chalky River, emboldened by storm rains, sent stones and mud thundering through her yard around 11 o’clock Sunday night.

Despite the damage to her house, Johnson was more worried about her neighbour, 11-year-old Tiandra Robinson, who sustained injuries when she was washed away by the river.

“When I saw the lot of water and the likkle girl likkle most … ,” said Johnson, her voice halting with dread as she considered the child’s near death.

“It’s like it just get to me head, really, ‘cause me trouble with pressure,” she said of her hypertensive state.

Tiandra’s father, Leonard Robinson, said while he was trying to secure official documents, his daughter became terrified by the water charging through the house, causing her to dash outside.

Neighbour Henry Lewis, who was about to flee inside after the river overturned his car in his front yard, dived to her rescue.

Tiandra is currently receiving medical attention at the Bustamante Hospital for Children.

Muddy mess

Weise Road is perhaps the worst-hit section of Nine Miles. On Monday morning, residents sat outside their homes, lamenting that they had not eaten since the night before when the Chalky River overflowed its banks for the third time in weeks.

Piles and piles of mud almost reached ceilings. Perimeter walls and furniture were submerged in silt. Yards reeked of the putrid odour of dead animals.

It was a disaster zone.

The anger at Mother Nature – and government authorities – was palpable, as disgruntled citizens blocked the main road to protest the late arrival of Juliet Holness, their member of parliament (MP).

Alfred Johnson, who staved off the threat of his home being flooded by shovelling away silt the first time the river broke its banks weeks ago, said on Monday that he rallied the help of family and friends to remove debris from his home.

“When I come out, I was trying to barricade the gate and trust me, it wasn’t pretty. Everything, some big stones, everything just burst right in,” he said in befuddlement as his two daughters’ cars were blanketed in mud. His stepson, Kemar King, took a shovel and pickaxe to the silt in hopes of exhuming the vehicles.

With danger looming, Fitzgerald Benjamin moved his mother and mother-in-law to a safe location and battened down his windows. However, silt and water covered the windows and seeped through.

Devastation to their two-storey home has left Marsha Smart and her family of 14 displaced.

Holness, whose St Andrew East Rural constituency has been the epicentre of the disaster, said that buses from the Jamaica Urban Transit Company had been deployed to transport residents to the shelter at the nearby St Benedict’s Primary School. She assured them that a team would be dispatched to protect their homes from looters.

The MP said that she would meet with construction interests as residents have `blamed mining and quarry stakeholders operating at Gypsum Hill for the volumes of silt overflow that has covered their community.

“... The NWA (National Works Agency) is looking to replace areas where the groyne has been disturbed, particularly with gabion baskets that you are able to build up even higher,” Holness told The Gleaner.

jonielle.daley@gleanerjm.com