Over the weekend, Jamaica was pounded by heavy rain associated with Tropical Storm Zeta which led to two fatalities, many roads destroyed, residents displaced and calls from locals urging the government to address the concerns over the island’s poor infrastructure.
The severe weather began on Friday, October 23, when the Meteorological Service issued a flash flood warning for low-lying and flood-prone areas including St Andrew. The heavy rains resulted in two fatalities after a house was swept away in Shooters Hill, St Andrew. The bodies of the father/daughter duo, Romeo Leachman and his 15-year-old daughter Saneeka Leachman, were found under the remains of his house which was swept away in a landslide.
The conditions continued over the weekend but the bulk at the destruction was done on Sunday when a flash flood warning was issued for all parishes and almost an entire day of rain caused flooding across the island and forced many residents to evacuate their homes and find shelter.
Western Jamaica: Main road between Negril ane Little London flooded and impassable at White Hall, Westmoreland. Single lane traffic on Anchovy to Shettlewood, St. James. pic.twitter.com/kD5etHtgaP
— NationalWorksAgency (@NWA_JA) October 25, 2020
The areas of Mandeville, Negril, Bull Bay along with parts of St. Elizabeth, St. Catherine, Clarendon and Kingston were the hardest hit, with several roads in those parishes declared as “impassable” due to high water. The Bog Walk Gorge was closed due to high water which covered the Flat Bridge and in St. Andrew, residents living in Nine Miles and the wider Bull Bay were urged to immediately evacuate and seek higher ground as the flooding had been escalated to an emergency situation.
Flat Bridge, Bog Walk Gorge, St Catherine, Jamaica. No wonder they don’t bother try putting up rails anymore. pic.twitter.com/oGcxiZzG3Z
— Tallsome Lee ?? (@leinova) October 26, 2020
The island’s police emergency number was also out of service on Sunday due to the weather and a number of parished were without electricity for hours.
Jamaica Public Service, the island’s sole electricity provider, gave an explanation of the mass outage, saying that: “Days of rain have resulted in saturated soil, soil erosion and land slips, which have caused some poles to become dislodged resulting in power outages. Additionally, land slips have brought trees down on some lines, causing service disruption.”
The destruction caused by the tropical storm has reignited calls for the government to urgently address the island’s drainage and infrastructure problems which are highlighted whenever there are a few hours of heavy rain.
On Twitter, Marlene Malahoo Forte, the attorney general, and the Government’s legal adviser said that “Time come for the government to pay better attention to #townplanning and #settlementpatterns. I’ve grown tired of the excuses why we cannot do better.”
Many Jamaicans fear that if an even bigger storm or hurricane were to directly hit the island, as they have done to The Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Dominica and other Caribbean islands over the last few years, Jamaica would be completely devastated.