Christmas brings glimmer of hope for disaster-hit Shooters Hill
Residents in the St Andrew East Rural communities of Shooters Hill and Weise Road are still in the recovery phase from the devastation caused by the outer bands of Tropical Storm Zeta in late October.
Mud-stained buildings, sunken homes, cracked walls, and loose stones sum up the wreckage, and as Christmas inches closer, they are yearning for assistance to get the ball rolling once more.
Landslides sent mud, rocks, and other debris crashing into Arlene Chandler-Morgan’s house, rendering it uninhabitable.
She sought refuge at her brother’s home, also in Shooters Hill, with her 26-year-old daughter, who has a learning disability. Meanwhile, her husband has been sheltering with another relative.
“My blood pressure went up sky high. I have to start all over again. I am stressed, but with Christ in the vessel, I can smile at the storm,” said Chandler-Morgan, referencing a popular refrain in religious circles.
“It’s not easy because sometimes when I’m lying down, I just imagine everything coming before me,” she said.
Chandler-Morgan suffered a similar fate in Ten Miles, Bull Bay, in 2002 when Isidore triggered tropical-storm warnings and passed within 50 kilometres of the island.
“I just started building something, two bedrooms, kitchen, and bathroom. Foundation was up, and by the next week, we would start putting up the blocks ... ,” she recounted.
“The morning when I went back out Ten Miles, you could sit on the housetop where I was living and see that the house I was building was gone.”
It took the family years to rebuild, and the recent ordeal has taken a toll on her daughter, who she said often asks her, “Arlene, where we a go live?”
Chandler-Morgan’s daughter Odinta made an impassioned plea for help as her mother stopped working on March 12 and her father, a few days later.
“Wi waah start build up, so we need block, cement, and steel,” the daughter said.
An Adventist, Chandler-Morgan does not celebrate Christmas but family dinner is a special feature of the season.
“A friend called this morning and said, ‘I know you’re depressed, Arlene, so we are inviting you, your daughter, and your husband to come and relax with us,’” she said.
Forty-one-year-old Samaro Reid was born and raised in Shooters Hill, and it took him 20 years to build his two-bedroom home, which is now partially collapsed.
Help coming in new year
Reid said that the affected residents have been promised help, but it will not be forthcoming until the new year.
He could have suffered a similar fate to Romeo Leechman and daughter Saneeka – who both died in a landslide on October 23 – but is thankful that he awoke in time to escape.
“I’m taking it one step at a time, nuh really a think bout nuh Christmas. I’m focusing on getting back on my foot again,” the father of two shared.
Henrietta Rawle, a resident of Weise Road, told The Gleaner that since the Chalky River overflowed its banks, leaving households with mounds of silt, some days have been gloomy, but she is earnestly trying to remain positive.
Pointing to her mattresses that were soaked in muddy water, she said that her children had to buy a new bed for her.
The only thing that was spared damage was her wall-mounted TV. The children’s footwear vendor said a barrel with all her goods was washed away.
“Mi nuh see di Chrismus yet, you know, maybe by next week. I’m just down, and its an enormous task to clean up all of this,” she said, adding that she spent hours on Saturday cleaning items in her cabinet.
Meanwhile, Patricia Plummer has managed to clean up the majority of the mess caused by the floodwaters. She has repainted the interior of her house and has plans to build the boundary wall much higher.
In the 44 years she has called Weise Road home, the events of late October were a first-time occurrence.
This Christmas, Plummer will be travelling to Manchester to share in the festivities with her daughter. But before that, she is trying to patch together her life and sees a silver lining amid the dark clouds.
Her dresser drawers were damaged but are now being repaired by a furniture maker. A blow-dryer that was once filled with dirt is back at full blast. And a buried radio has been exhumed and is playing again.
“The water was raging, but I’m glad nobody died. Everybody trying to fix up back,” said Plummber.