For almost a week, beginning on, October 18, 2018, Trinidad and Tobago, experienced widespread severe flash flooding. After relentless rainfall, approximately 80 percent of the country was affected, mainly the northern, eastern, and central parts of the island. Many communities were either partially or completely flooded such as Sangre Grande, Matelot, Caroni, Mayaro, La Horquetta and St. Helena, affecting roughly 6,000 people. The floodwater depth made roads impassable and left some communities inaccessible, public warning messages alerting people that certain communities were now in either the orange or red risk level. Heavy rainfall within 24 hours equivalent to or surpassing a month’s worth of rain with loss of telecommunications and electricity for approximately three days after all the rainfall. Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley said, “This is a national disaster…”
Stephen and his family luckily did not experience any flooding or destruction to their home or business. He said it’s because he “lives on an incline, higher grounds. Places that got hit by the flood were low line areas, so when the river bank couldn’t hold anymore it began to overflow, due to poor infrastructure and the government decision not to clean the drains.” Unfortunately, a lot of his neighboring communities were not as lucky and were in need of immediate help. Like most severe natural disasters various people experience loss or damage to property. Countless people required assistance to evacuate, shelter due to unlivable home conditions, food, clothes donations, etc. “Conditions of the houses after the flood was bad because of the level of the floodwaters, a lot of feces, people lost their cars, some were covered entirely. Some people also experienced landslide, foundations, and walls of homes were destroyed.” He explained that “some people cut holes in their roof, to escape because the flood water was roof high, people slept on top their roof for days.”
Despite the dreadful situation people within different communities came together to respond to the crisis. Stephen himself along with family and friends didn’t just sit around, they set out to help those in need. When asked if people within communities helped more than the government, he said, “yes, by far, we bought food, water, non-perishable items, cleaning supplies and delivered it to the flood victims.” He described the experience as “heartbreaking, sad, seeing people lose everything having to start over from scratch. What was nice was seeing what humanitarian was like seeing people from different religious beliefs, cultural beliefs and races coming together to help people that were in distress.” In such a devastating time, disaster collectivism is really what makes a huge difference immediately after a disaster.
The abundant willingness of support and assistance that many provided to the flood victims was outright courageous. Even though a lot of livestock died and agricultural lands destroyed, directly after the flood “people were delivering hot meals and sandwiches to the victims, breakfast, lunch, and dinner they never were out of food.” Not only were the people within local and afar communities donating and helping those in need but, also the hardware stores, local and wholesale groceries. Stephen said, “hardware stores contributed too, they donated sandbags and other materials, to build barriers.” “The wholesalers, Price Smart an international franchise when supplies were bought for distribution the managers gave a 10% discount off the total bill. Some local groceries closed their business and actually packed boxes and hampers with supplies to distribute.”
Among those affected were prisoners, at Golden Grove Remand Section, floodwaters filled cells with approximately 3 feet of water. Those detained there were awaiting trial but have not yet been convicted. “A lot of offices were called out, some couldn’t reach the line of duty, they had to move prisoners from their cells to higher grounds, a very difficult task, a lot of prisoners and no staff, many prisoners lost their personal items.” For many first responders, it was hard for them as well, to commute, the Defense Force that could reach the line of duty helped distribute supplies and aided in rescue operations some people needed to be airlifted from their homes, they also utilized boats and rafts for rescue missions and the Coast Guards used scuba gears. During all the chaos “the Army delivered a baby, in the midst of the flood, on a boat.”
Even though disasters as a whole, are devastating for those that are affected, the recovery process and or the immediate aftermath is really what defines the moment. It’s a time in which many people effortlessly come together as one and take care of one another. Even though it is initially a time of weakness and sadness many people gain strength, sometimes going above and beyond to help others. In such a situation, people often open their hearts to complete strangers, it’s a beautiful thing. “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”