A spate of bad weather across Trinidad and Tobago between last Thursday night and early yesterday left hundreds of families across the country in a state of limbo, gravitating between dealing with roofs blown off by heavy winds to rains that caused even more hardship and destruction.
Hundreds of roofs were blown off homes and trees were uprooted in several areas during what many described as a night of terror last Thursday, as thunderstorms unleashed violent winds and heavy showers, wreaking havoc across T&T. The short horrible spell which lasted minutes, felt like hours, as winds above 80 kilometres per hour roared through communities and made several roads in Valencia, Chaguanas, Tobago and other parts of the country impassable.
Response teams from the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government have been working in areas most badly affected, including Sangre Grande, Diego Martin, Tunapuna, Point Fortin, to clear roadways and assist with repairing homes badly damaged by the heavy winds.
As the river came down in Diego Martin, hiker Anneicia Lewis was swept away in the raging waters. Her body was found yesterday morning.
It is clear there is a message in what happened for Trinidad and Tobago and it brings into question the readiness of this country for a full-fledged storm or hurricane.
Damage assessment of the affected areas must of necessity be done. But what is also required is a review of the preparedness of state agencies to respond to crises like these. The ODPM, T&TEC, WASA and regional corporations must all analyse their response to the recent events and make the necessary adjustments going forward.
There are still three months to the end of the hurricane season and the weather systems have progressively been getting worse. It is part of the severe climate change which global experts recently warned of and something that the authorities need to ensure they treat seriously and get ready for.
While some assistance will come from the National Self Help Commission for persons whose properties are damaged, the reality is that unless there are proper building codes and people secure their roofs within those regulations, there is no way to prevent a recurrence.
For years, disaster agencies have advised that people secure their roofing with hurricane straps. But time and time again, when such events occur, the resultant problems are the same because those worst affected are unable to do the things required to ensure their homes can withstand the type of weather we experienced.
This newspaper hopes the authorities will embark on a campaign to educate the population on what is needed and to also tangibly assist the most vulnerable. T&T must be ready for any eventuality, especially with the effects of climate change as is evidenced around the world.
Just last week, New York and the tri-state area experienced the worse rainfall and flooding experienced in decades, resulting in more than 40 deaths including those of two T&T nationals. The time has come for a serious look at all systems to ensure this country is fully prepared.