Access woes in South East
Delices is still cut off from the rest of Dominica. Villagers express their pain
More than two months after the devastation caused by Tropical Storm Erika, residents of Delices/Boetica and Victoria/LaRoche are anxious for their lives to regain some semblance of normalcy.
However, Minister of Public Works Ian Pinard has assured that Government continues to work assiduously to relieve the residents' distress.
Residents say access to the rest of Dominica became a challenge after the storm dumped landslides on the Delices to Petite Savanne road and destroyed a section of it, effectively disabling their main route to and from Roseau.
The situation was compounded by the fact that the storm washed away the bridge at the Boetica Gorge. Furthermore, the storm created another impassable gorge in Delices, cutting off Victoria/LaRoche.
Some residents have launched a petition calling on Government to clear the Delices to Petite Savanne Road urgently and relieve their plight.
They contend that clearance of this road would enable them to enter and exit Boetica/Delices via a much shorter route through Petite Savanne rather than having to pass through the gorge and access the rest of Dominica through La Plaine, a much longer route.
However, Minister of Public Works Ian Pinard said experts have advised that the road is dangerous and should not be opened until further notice.
Instead, a temporary Bailey Bridge is being erected across the gorge, he said.
But residents are still concerned that they would only have access through La Plaine.
One person questioned whether Government's refusal to open up the road has anything to do with the fact that it was constructed by the United Workers Party administration.
Pinard told the Sun Newspaper that work on the temporary bridge started during the last week of October and is expected to be completed in about three weeks.
In addition, Government has installed a zipline across the gorge to facilitate the conveyance of necessities to residents' homes.
Work has also been done to channel the river through the culvert in order to make the gorge easier to cross, the minister said.
He added that action will be taken on the gorge that cuts off Victoria/LaRoche from Delices after the Boetica Gorge is opened.
However, a bypass was created for residents of Victoria/LaRoche, Pinard noted.
Meantime, residents reported that everyday life in Delices/Boetica revolves around persons risking life and limb by crossing the gorge either by walking through it or by pulling themselves across via the zipline. Further, they complain that the walk through the gorge takes them about 20 minutes and is physically challenging for some.
One resident, Glorine Simon, said, "The only thing that I personally have not seen them sling across [on the zipline] is a four-wheel vehicle.
"Bikes, you sling that across. Dead bodies, you sling across. The only thing that hasn't gone across the gorge is a vehicle and a live animal…"
Simon said that on Friday evenings, residents can be seen 'slinging' supplies and other necessities via the cable across the gorge.
She said that a centenarian who recently passed away was airlifted from Delices by helicopter and brought back to the community on the cable over the gorge.
Another dead body had to be taken out of the village via the cable, she recalled.
One resident who needed medical attention had to leave via the cable as he could not walk through the gorge.
Residents said they are anxious for Government to take more action to help them piece their lives back together again.
Simon lamented that the situation has forced her to leave the village and move to Roseau.
Others were forced to leave their homes as well, in order to continue working in Roseau. They said this means finding additional money for rent or staying with relatives and friends.
Simon and other residents, some of whom do not want to be identified, said the situation has sent up the cost of living in these communities.
Simon said that she is not happy with the level of communication from Government on the situation and villagers want more information from the parliamentary representative.
"We are not asking him to make magic and bring us a bridge, but come to us at least once a week and let the people on the ground know you are there, you feel our pain…"
Further, she related that relief supplies being taken into the village are insufficient. Supplies only went to the village three times after Erika, she reckons.
She said that despite their hardships, residents have injected a bit of humour into the situation, referring to the gorge as 'the port' and the man who operates the pulley as 'Benoit Bardouille'.
The owner of the Delices gas station, Lloyd Swedy said he ran out of fuel and has no way of getting supplies to his station, therefore, his three employees are out of jobs.
He claimed that someone is bringing fuel into the community and selling it at twice the official retail price.
Swedy said he believes the Delices to Petite Savanne Road should have been cleared and fixed so residents would have been able to travel more easily.
Now, he is hoping that the bridge government promised for Boetica can be put in place soon to relieve the situation.
One farmer said he is also begging the Government to clear the road to Petite Savanne to create access.
This farmer is also concerned that government officials are not communicating sufficiently with the people.
He said pensioners cannot get their monies and financial institutions are calling on their customers to pay on their loans as the grace period extended following the storm, has passed.
Bus drivers are unable to ply their trade as their buses are stuck on the other side of the gorge.
Further, he is concerned about the children who have had to be relocated to Roseau in order to attend high school.
He said some of these children are uncomfortable and a few have complained of receiving bad treatment from their guardians.
"Have a little sympathy for us, have a little mercy for us," the farmer said.
Former Parliamentary Representative for the area, Ron Green said the Delices to Petite Savanne Road is still covered with debris from landslides.
He said there is a growing body of opinion that the road can be and should be cleared.
"It appears as if the government chose to focus on the Boetica gorge. The main reason for that, I suspect, is that they decided that Petite Savanne is not a village that could be lived in…that it was dangerous, that people would not be safe there…" he said.
Referring to the Boetica/Delices situation, Green said, "Unfortunately, the government seems to have made some bad decisions….
"One they did not prioritise it and look at it . . . urgently. And when they did do something, they did the wrong thing.
"They created a bypass, which was not motorable by vehicle. You could walk on it but you couldn't drive on it.
"Two months have passed and now people who drive buses for a living, people who are farmers and have to move produce, people who have to get to Roseau to buy their goods….all these people are feeling the suffering of the lack of access to Delices.
"And government has taken a stubborn if not ignorant position that they are not going to clear the Delices to Petite Savanne Road because Petite Savanne is a disaster area…"
He said that someone has offered to clear the road as a community service, but is being "stonewalled".
In response, Minister Pinard said Government did not refuse the individual's offer to clear the road, but followed experts' advice that it is dangerous and should not be opened at this time.
Green contended that while it will take about three more weeks to erect the bridge, it will take just about a week to clear the roadway.