Hill of pain
Group of St Andrew residents at wits end
It is approaching two years since heavy rainfall caused extensive damage to a road and houses in White Hill, St Andrew, and residents and their parliamentary representative are still crying out for relief.
A passionate Carlitha Andrews, spokesperson for the community that is home to almost 300 people, said residents have been inconvenienced and disadvantaged since a large section of the road on the western end of the district collapsed during bad weather on November 21 and 22, 2014.
She recalled that while the initial response from the Ministry of Transport and Works (MTW) was that the road should be abandoned instead of rebuilt to acceptable standards, the residents were in the dark about the status of the funds that were provided to repair the damaged road.
On December 8, 2014, Government received an insurance coverage payment of US$1.2 million from the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) to finance infrastructural repair work that was required as a result of the heavy rainfall that impacted the island two weeks prior.
“Nobody ain’t coming to tell you nothing and our lives have been put on hold. The 22nd of this month would be two years that we are still waiting for answers – whether they are going to move us or if they are going to do the road. We keep asking for answers and nobody has been giving us answers,” Andrews lamented.
“Everything we learning, we learning from the media, whether it is true or lies. Nobody think they owe it to us to say ‘White Hill people, this is what we are going to do’. We feel abandoned, neglected and everything in one.”
The outspoken resident noted that because public transportation could not make a complete journey across the damaged road, the Transport Board had introduced a shuttle service. But that, she said, was not functioning efficiently.
What’s more, she added, residents were being exploited by taxi drivers who charged exorbitant fares to and from the area.
Andrews claimed that not only were a few residents now unemployed because the transportation system had resulted in them getting to work late, but school children were also affected.
“[There are] children that supposed to be going to university and sometimes cannot go because we on a curfew. The bus down the hill there, when 7:30 [p.m.] it done work,” she complained.
She also disclosed that her teenage daughter had asked her to review the possibility of being homeschooled because she could no longer take the burden of leaving home before 5 a.m., only to still arrive at her St Michael school late.
As for other young residents, Andrews noted that children have not heard the sound of an ice-cream van in the area in two years and did not have a good Christmas during that period either. She said she did not know whether December 25 would be any different for them this year.
“It is terrible up here. It is horrible living in White Hill; it is like we are not in Barbados, we are elsewhere. I mean, we just feel like giving up. If our house was just like a lil match box that we could take up and put in our pockets and move we would, trust me,” Andrews said.
Meanwhile, Member of Parliament for St Andrew George Payne told Barbados TODAY that the treatment of the people of White Hill demonstrated that “this Government cares nothing about the people that they represent”.
Saying the situation was heartbreaking, he added: “The Minister of Housing has refused to even visit the site. The Minister of Public Works wanted the area abandoned and then he changed his mind. They came and put down a marl road, knowing that the road would be washed away. I don’t know if they want to have the type of evidence which suggests that everybody in White Hill should be moved out.”
“In the interim, they are not telling the people exactly what they propose to do. All they [are] talking about is having certain surveys done and dealing with experts to determine what will happen in White Hill. Meantime, the entire community has been [destroyed]. Schoolchildren some days cannot go to school, people have been forced to catch three buses to go a few yards up the road,” Payne said.
He contended the only way to solve the problem facing the residents was “to get rid of this Government”.
“And get rid of them as fast as possible. It is sad that they are going to prolong the agony of the people in White Hill until June 2018 [when elections are due], and I am not so sure even if the people in Barbados could take it that long,” the MP said.
Payne also complained that over the past eight years, there have been no housing projects in his constituency although there have been several in other parishes across the island.
He pointed out that no roads in St Andrew have been fixed since the Democratic Labour Party was elected to office in 2008, although some were in urgent need of repair.