Heavy rains in western Jamaica cause widespread flooding

The National Building Authority (NWA) has begun assessing the damage to the road network in western Jamaica after prolonged heavy rains hit that part of the island between Sunday afternoon and yesterday morning, causing widespread flooding and infrastructure damage.

Several roads in St. James, Hanover and Westmoreland, including those that had recently been repaired, became impassable either because of debris accumulation or as a result of floodwaters eroding the pavement, which also damaged homes and farms in several communities.

Montego Bay Mayor Leroy Williams was grateful to the St. James Municipal Corporation for not having to activate any of its emergency shelters even though some homes were flooded.

“We sent a crew to the Unity Hall area, which was hit hard by roadway debris, and we sent heavy equipment to the King Street area, which was affected by land slide,” Williams said yesterday. “We are monitoring the situation and are prepared to take whatever action we deem necessary.”

By yesterday evening, the blocked sections of main Unity Hall and Adelphi roads had been cleared, but the clearing was handled by NWA crews, and a one-lane driveway was restored on Cash Hill Road in Hanover until last night.

The North and South Gullies, the center of the Montego Bay drainage system, were also nearly full due to the volume of water flowing from the Salt Spring, Green Pond and Cornwall Courts areas.

Early morning floodwaters prevented commuters from reaching areas such as William, Princess, Union, Creek and Upper Orange streets, where water rose up to five feet in some sections.

Several other heavily used roads in and around St. James, including Lilliput Road to Sangster International Airport, Porto Bello Road to Orange, and the main Sign Irwin Road near the FESCO service station, were either impassable or single-lane.

Guava Walk and Unity Hall main roads were hit the hardest, where large sections of asphalt were ripped off, leaving large craters.

Several National Water Commission pipelines were also damaged.

Many workers and school children were unable to leave their communities, and those who ventured out were stuck in traffic as motorists slowly navigated the water-filled sinkholes.

“Today was supposed to be my first day back from vacation, but after seeing the state of downtown Montego Bay, I realized there was no way I could make it to my workplace in Hanover,” said one travel worker who decided to return to her home in Cornwall Courts.

Clogged drains and a faulty sewer system have caused some homes to flood, and residents have vented their anger at the National Housing Trust (NHT) and NWA, which they say have not heeded their calls to fix long-standing problems.

“With the exception of one visit by an NHT employee, our appeals were largely ignored,” said one resident. “After every heavy rain, we usually get a huge cleaning bill, and things like carpets fall into disrepair.”

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