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National disaster declared in Trinidad and Tobago after widespread floods


An active Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) produced prolonged periods of thunderstorm activity over Trinidad and Tobago over the past 7 days, leading to widespread severe flash flooding and thousands of people stranded. An orange alert is in effect until October 23 for the entire country. A red alert is also in effect for Riverine flooding until Friday, October 26 with possible further flash flooding. The Prime Minister has declared a "national disaster" and authorities are responding to the event. The country is currently in its rainy season (June – December).

Rains started on October 15 and intensified on October 17 with 87.7 mm (3.45 inches) in Piarco and 131.1 mm (5.16 inches) in Crown Point over the period of 24 hours. In 7 days to October 22, Piarco received 254.9 mm (10 inches) of rain and reached a monthly total of 296.6 mm (11.6 inches). During the same period, Crown Point received 171.8 mm (6.7 inches) / monthly cumulative 217.5 mm (8.5 inches).

On average, Piarco receives 1 870 mm (73.6 inches) of rainfall per year and 155.8 mm (6.1 inches) per month.

As of October 22, floods are affecting an estimated 80% of the territory. 6 000 people are directly affected and 13 shelters have been opened.

At present, the NEOC and TEOC continue to coordinate search and rescue exercises and the distribution of relief supplies across Trinidad and Tobago, the government said.

The Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force has been deployed to affected communities to support the distribution of relief supplies and aid in rescue operations. Relief supplies of bottled water, family food hampers, hygiene kits and blankets are being distributed to affect Municipalities.

"This is a national disaster, the flooding is quite widespread and quite severe and it is going to cost a lot of money to bring relief to people who have been affected. Notwithstanding whatever shortages we are experiencing we will have to find the resources to help," Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell said after touring some of the affected areas.

"It's massive!" Trinidadian journalist Renuka Singh said. "What we have had is an unprecedented three days of rainfall that led to severe flooding in the Arima District, in the eastern part of the island, specifically Greenvale – that is a government housing area. It is almost nationwide. The Maraval River broke its banks on Saturday [October 20] which is in the western part of the island. We have flooding in Maraval and Diego Martin. Early yesterday, there were also reports of flooding in Gasparillo, which is in the south, basically all cardinal points."

The defense force has been busy airlifting people from their homes and citizens have utilized boats and rafts for either rescue or to move persons from one point to the next.

Authorities of the eastern town of Sangre Grande said they have experienced worst flooding in 50 years and appealed government to finally open regional disaster center. Criticized for lack of proper cleaning of the drains, Sangre Grande Regional Corporation chairman said it was an act of nature.

Featured image credit: CNC3


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