With possible extreme weather on the horizon as a potential tropical cyclone moves closer to the island, parts of south Trinidad were particularly buzzing with activity on Tuesday.
Hours before the storm was scheduled to make landfall, the race had been on to protect people, pets and property.
With sustained rainfall and thunderstorm activity threatening to trigger flooding in low-lying communities, residents from the Penal/Debe area were left frantic for sandbags to fortify their homes from possible rising waters.
In an interview with Guardian Media, Penal Debe Regional Corporation chairman Dr Allen Sammy said employees were working overtime to meet the demand for sandbags.
He said, “At noon we crossed a thousand, and that’s for today alone, don’t forget we have been distributing all week.”
Sammy said the surge for sandbags was unlike what he had seen before.
He said, “There’s a tremendous rush, even during Bret we never experienced this, people also waited last minute, but the rush has been unbelievable.”
Sammy also said over 1,000 gallons of diesel have since been credited to the corporation, after a lack of funding prevented them from stocking up.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Rural Development Minister Faris Al-Rawi said the chairman could have authorised funds to be re-directed. Sammy, however, said it was not as easy as it seemed.
He said, “A month ago, a request was made to virement for another item of expenditure and we have received no attention, and that’s one month waiting, and that’s a simple request. So when the minister gives the impression to the public that we can vire funds and it is a simple exercise, it is not, it has been complicated by his ministry and even if we were to do that, they do not replenish the funds so it means some other set of people would have suffered.”
Metres away from where sandbags were being picked up at the corporation’s office, others were topping up on other essentials.
One shopper said, “We don’t know how severe it going to be, it looking like it might be serious so we doing some last-minute shopping.”
Manager at MS Food stores Sara Sookoo said the rush was anticipated due to the threatening weather.
She said, “It is extremely busy today due to the panic buying because of the storm, a lot of people don’t want to be unprepared so because of that, they taking front as we like to say.”
Up until yesterday morning, sandbags were still being prepared by members of the Point Fortin Borough Corporation.
Member of Parliament for the area Kennedy Richards confirmed that three of the borough’s 11 emergency shelters were activated and all efforts were being made to mitigate disaster caused by the adverse weather.
Despite calls for calm, panic piled on, as Guardian Media captured long lines to access gas stations across the southern city. The city’s mayor Junia Regrello told Guardian Media that the Disaster Management Unit was prepared for any crisis and they were prepared to weather any storm.