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Hillside comes tumbling down

Petit Valley residents recount day of disaster...
Monday, August 13, 2012
A section of Morne Coco Road in Petit Valley which collapsed after heavy flooding in the area on Saturday morning. PHOTO: KRISTIAN DE SILVA

“Oh my gosh but it not stopping!” The anguished cry of Pearl Dalrymple came as she listened to the rain fall, sending water rushing through her house like a ravine. The bed she lay on a couple hours earlier was now covered in mud. Dalrymple was one of the worst-hit residents of La Estancia Drive, Diego Martin, who were affected when the hillside came down with tons of debris and wreaked havoc on several houses after overnight showers Saturday.


“I woke up about five and realised the rain was falling really heavy,” she said. “Less than an hour later I got out of bed and made a cup of coffee and I felt that this was getting really serious. I called my companion and asked him to come quickly because I just got this feeling, you know.” A sense of panic came over her as she heard a “rushing sound” and looked out to see a large volume of water moving mud and debris down the side of her house. She decided at that point it was time to get out .


“I grabbed my handbag and my keys and made it out the door just in time I would say, because moments later the water got up really high and I could easily have been trapped inside,” she said on reflection. It turned out that as a portion of the hillside gave way, it brought down water, mud and debris, which burst through her bedroom window, flooding the ground floor of the house, depositing more than a foot of silt and destroying everything in it.


Dalrymple showed the aftermath of the mudslide inside the house as the doorbell rang incessantly, unable to be silenced after the flood, and recalled how she grabbed hold of her passport but dropped it in the haste to get out. “I can find one side for every pair of shoes that I had. How long would it take to clean this up?” she wondered aloud, and then quickly added, “You know, even when this is cleared away I would not want to live here. Every time the rain falls I would be worried.”


Dalrymple said she got out of her yard by climbing the perimeter fence into the neighbour’s property. Minutes later she watched her car which was parked in the garage, being carried down the hillside road which took on the appearance of a river as the water rushed down.


Another vehicle got tumbled down the roadway, stopping on the car of Adrian Boos, who was still thankful he had not parked the vehicle in the garage of his apartment which was filled with more than four feet of debris. The door and window to the house held, so nothing came into the house, he said. David Butler, who lives next door to Dalrymple higher up the hill, lost his walls as the water and mud came crashing through them and into Dalrymple’s house, but fortunately it did not get into the house.


Richard Attong, who lives in the house at the top of La Estancia Drive, said in the 26 years he has lived there, nothing such as this had ever happened. The mudslide that brought down tons of debris occurred just above his house where there was once lush vegetation.


The slide packed the debris all around the house, demolished his water tanks and pounded his family’s SUVs but fortunately did not get into the house. “A few inches more and it would have been inside but my concern now is if the rain continues to fall, what would stop the water from coming over the mud and into the house?” Attong said.


Across the Diego Martin highway at Chuma Monka, Petit Valley, housekeeper Delseta (who asked to be identified by her first name only) was also grateful to have escaped the rushing torrents of water that inundated her employer’s house. “The gurgling sound of the water in the pipe woke me up. When I get off the bed it was water all through the house and when I looked out I seeing water all around. I started to bawl for help and I climbed onto the burglar proofing by the porch and then onto the roof to get over the fence to the highway,” she said.


Her daughter who came to her assistance was grateful that her mother made it out of the house “half naked” as more than four feet of water flooded the yard and into the house which was elevated about three feet from ground level. Describing the experience as “horrifying,” Delseta showed the scars on her arm as she injured herself climbing onto the perimeter fence which was spiked with nails. Inside the house was a disaster—furniture tumbled over, remote controls embedded in mud outside the front door and a large pot filled with muddy water settled inside the computer room, signs of what had taken place.


Several houses on Chuma Monka Avenue as well as Leobass Avenue were flooded when water coming down the Petit Valley hills backed up on reaching the overflowing Diego Martin river. Lenny Soso, whose house borders the highway, lost the entire western fence of the property as his house was also flooded out when the water backed up at the Diego Martin river. The last time the area flooded like this was back in 1963, he said, in the time of Hurricane Flora.


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