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President Bharrat Jagdeo speaks with British High Commissioner Stephen Hiscock, left, and U.S. Ambassador Roland Bullen yesterday. The Government Information Agency said the President explained the decision of the authorities to ease the pressure on the East Demerara Water Conservancy dam by opening the Maduni sluice. Later in the day, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon briefed the diplomatic community on flooding across the country and the government’s interventions, the agency said. 

(Photo by Sandra Prince, Office of the President)



Flood evacuation plans in train
-- as waters rise
By Neil Marks
THE Civil Defence Commission (CDC) is making plans to evacuate Mahaica/Mahaicony residents if it becomes necessary, commission head Colonel Chabilall Ramsarup said last evening as water rose in the two rivers and spread to residential communities.

The decision to release water from the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC) through the Maduni sluice to avoid breaches in the dam, and swamping the densely-populated East Coast Demerara, means higher water levels in the yards and homes of Mahaica/Mahaicony river residents.

However, while the floodwaters over the last month affected residents in the rivers, the opening of the Maduni sluice means the same fate for residents in residential areas, and Ramsarup said the CDC was identifying possible shelters in case evacuation is needed.

He said some families in the rivers have already moved older people and children to stay with relatives on the main road, while the others are prepared to battle it out.

He said those he has had discussions with do not wish to be placed in shelters.

Ramsarup said the decision to release water from the EDWC through Maduni was prudent since the Mahaica/Mahaicony areas were already flooded and the build up of water in the conservancy could have posed a threat to the dam and cause much more headache were it to be compromised.

During the devastating January floods last year, Mahaica and Mahaicony were also flooded to ease the pressure on the EDWC.

Acting Agriculture Minister, Mr Satyadeow Sawh was sent into the Mahaicony River to explain to residents there the decision to open the Maduni sluice, while Public Service Minister Dr. Jennifer Westford was sent to the Mahaica River.

Efforts are under way to prevent breaches in the EDWC dam and a workforce of more than 100 has been deployed to shore up low sections of the northern dam, an official said.

Water from the conservancy is being let out through four sluices -- Maduni, Kofi, Cunia and Land of Canaan. Two pumps are at work to supplement drainage through the five-door sluice at Land of Canaan, and a third has been requested by the authorities, the official said.

No evidence of overtopping has been noted along the dam, the official reported, and a 24-hour close watch is under way.

The Maduni sluice was opened after noon yesterday and the water level in the Mahaica River had moved from 55.20 GD to 55.30 GD at around 18:00 h, the official told the Guyana Chronicle.

At the eastern Flagstaff end of the EDWC, the water level was put at 58.55 GD, the same as earlier in the day. However, the level at Land of Canaan had risen from 55.65 GD to 56.20 GD, by nightfall, he said.

The Mahaica River is the lowest of the rivers within the Mahaica, Mahaicony, Abary (MMA) grid.

The other river in the agriculture development area is the Abary, and the residents there are at this point most concerned about their livestock.

In the three rivers, Colonel Ramsarup, indicated that 15 per cent of the cattle have died already. He said these were primarily older cows, and calves.

Ramsarup said with the water level rising, higher grounds for the animals are becoming difficult to locate and their continued survival is threatened.

In addition, he said additional relief is on the cards for Mahaica/Mahaicony residents who will suffer further hardship because of the opening of the Maduni sluice.

Cash crop and livestock farmers, who depend on these for their livelihood, were already each allocated $100,000 as relief.

With the heavy rains expected to continue, President Bharrat Jagdeo, who convened a special meeting of his Cabinet yesterday morning, assigned several of his ministers to other parts of the country which are flooded, the Government Information Agency (GINA) said.

The Guyana Meteorological Office indicated that a reduction in rainfall intensity is expected in the next 24 hours.

Increase in rainfall intensity is likely on Thursday and Friday, and is likely to be accompanied by isolated thunderstorms and gusty winds. Rainfall may exceed 1.5 inch, the office said.

Public Works Minister, Mr Minister Harrinarine Nawbat has been assigned to assess the situation in Region Six; Minister of Health Dr. Leslie Ramsammy to East Coast Demerara, East Bank Demerara and Georgetown; Minister of Housing and Water, Mr Shaik Baksh and Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Mr Anthony Xavier to East Coast Demerara and Georgetown; Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Mr Manzoor Nadir to Georgetown, Minister of Home Affairs, Ms Gail Teixeira to Region Three; Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Ms Bibi Shadick to Essequibo Islands, and Minister of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation, Mr Clement Rohee to Region Two.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Justice for All Party, Mr C.N. Sharma, said he has dispatched a letter to President Jagdeo calling on him to declare the flood situation a national crisis and has urged a meeting of local government officers to review their responsibilities.