TWO families of Mohammed Street, St Augustine were counting their blessings on Friday for escaping injury or worse after a retaining wall and a large amount of soil from one home crashed into the neighbouring home, rendering both families uncertain as to where they would spend the night.
The disaster came after a day of very heavy rainfall, following a 5.6 magnitude earthquake on Thursday, perhaps worsening the stability of the wall.
Aquimer Charles and Dowders Charles suffered severe damage to their apartment (rented from her aunt) and loss of their electrical appliances, furniture and foodstuffs when their neighbour’s retaining wall crashed onto their home.
Conversely, neighbour Indra Chaitan not only had to worry about the damage to her neighbour’s house and her own yard, but was also in fear of a sudden loss of more earth that could collapse her own house.
Amid their angst, however, both families drew comfort from the prompt visits of several public agencies to help.
Aquimer told Newsday, “Even though I may look calm, I’m still shaking.”
She related, “We heard a noise. We grabbed the baby off the bed and everyone got off the bed. I grabbed the baby in time.”
A piece of wood had burst threw the wall to meet her face to face, she related.
“The kitchen ended up in the bedroom and living room.
“I ran out at the back and saw the neighbour’s whole wall onto the house.
“The neighbour’s car was about to tip, but they hoisted it and got it back into their compound.”
Newsday asked if the earthquake and rains had caused the wall’s collapse.
“If I’m being honest, the wall wasn’t sturdy enough. The wall was built a while but they were packing dirt and had work going on. They had work going on there, excavated stuff and so on, and all of that could have contributed to why the wall came down.”
She said she had reported the accident to the Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation (TPRC) which had contracted the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) which had sent staff.
“Disaster (ODPM) came up. The councillor came up and the chairman (TPRC head Kwasi Robinson.)”
She did not know how they would cope that night, being out of a home. “I have five kids and my husband.”
Aquimer said a member of the neighbouring family had just visited Councillor Corey Selvon.
Asked about any feedback from the neighbour, she said, “We didn’t have any discussion as yet. I don’t know what.”
On her losses, she said, “I lost everything inside my house. Beds, fridge, stove, tv, microwave. Everything you see in my house mash up because everything come down. Everything. Everything.”
Dowders said, “Right now I don’t know what to do because we have nothing. We have basically nothing.
“We are in a tropical wave right now. I don’t know where I’m sleeping tonight.
“My half of the house is totally gone, my kitchen, everything that I had grocery-wise.
“I’m like a fish out of water because I don’t know what’s going on.”
Aquimer said Ford’s representative had visited.
Dowders said, “They’ve been helpful in bringing in things and checking up on us, but remember it’s almost night and we still don’t know what’s going on.”
As Newsday left, a female official from the Ministry of Social Development arrived to speak to Aquimer.
Neighbour Indra Chaitan thanked Newsday for coming. She blamed the earthquake and heavy rains for the wall’s collapse.
“This morning rain was falling pretty heavily. Around minutes to 9 am there was a little dip on this side of the dirt and then with constant rain all we heard was a crash.” She said her son’s car had almost gone over onto the neighbour’s house, but was saved just in time.
“Thankfully nobody was injured, the neighbour there. Thank God. They are all okay and the kids. Thank God for that.”
“We are very grateful that the ODPM came, you (media) guys came and looked at it.” She said engineers had visited from the Ministry of Works and Transport.
“They said they’d get back to us. But look at the weather already,” she said, looked anxiously upwards as dark clouds began to threaten once again.
“If this weather continues like that, I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Newsday asked if she thought they might need to make restitution to their neighbours over the damage.
Chaitan replied she was still trying to come to terms with the shock of the event.
“We understand they lost their stuff and all that. It’s very hard for them too. So we’ll have to see how best we could help them too as well.”
She was pleased that the Ministry of Social Development had visited and promised to help her family get a place to stay, as their house looked a bit unstable.
“You have kids, you don’t want them running around. We might move in with some relatives. You see in the night when rain is coming down, it might be very scary.
“This all happened because of the earthquake. They say it (wall) had a crack. With the shake and with the rain how it came down, that was it.
“Once you live where it has a hill, you’ll expect landslips, just like on the flats you’ll get flooding.” She did not think that placing any more dirt behind the wall had weakened it.
Newsday asked if anyone would assist the neighbours in any negotiation over possible culpability.
“We spoke to our representative (Selvon) and they were here. They spoke to us and they spoke to them. So I guess we’ll come to some resolution. Hopefully we’ll work this mess out.”
As to her own house, she said, “So far, we pray to God nothing doesn’t move from where it is right now.”
Chaitan said MOWT engineers had visited and inspected the scene. “They said they’ll get back to us.”