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GUYANA -Buxton Health Fear

Photo compliments of the Nation NewsThursday 27, January-2005

From TIMOTHY SLINGER in GUYANA

Ange Howard standing in waist-high water sharing food with her four children in Buxton.


MORE than 120 000 people on the East Coast of Guyana remained under water siege yesterday for the 11th straight day.
And authorities fear an outbreak of disease in these communities from the worst flooding in Guyana in over 100 years.
Health officials have already identified signs of disease from the record flooding, with long lines of Guyanese being treated at a number of makeshift medical centres, set up along the heavily congested Demerara/Mahaica districts.
Doctors heading medical teams were busy yesterday treating several hundred of those who had fallen to illnesses like skin disease, diarrhoea, influenza and the common cold.
While floodwaters subsided in the capital Georgetown, several of the East Coast districts were still battling with water in some cases as much as seven feet deep.
“I am concerned about the solid waste disposal as most of it has gotten caught up (contaminated) with the water and I fear that later on we could have some serious problems,” a worried Dr Ruth Quaicoe told the DAILY NATION.


Julie Leonard, United States regional adviser for the Caribbean, who is heading a team of international experts for the Office for Disaster Assistance (ODA), was also worried.
“In addition to the fact that a lot of people cannot move easily or safely from where they are without contracting skin ailments and worse, when the water finally comes down there is going to be a big health problem, judging from the number of dead animals and raw sewage that’s in the water,” she said.
But besides the threat of a break-out of water-borne ailments, major concern has been expressed about the safety of the East Demerara Water Conservancy, a 200-year-old dirt water dam which has been leaking over the past days. There were fears it might collapse.
Noting that government had been trying its best by utilising all available resources to pump the millions of gallons of water from the affected areas, Leonard said there had been concern about the leaks and possible collapse of the dam.
“The conservancies are full and this has possibly created the flooding. Assuming there is some leakage from the lower level, it could cause a serious problem but we haven’t got that confirmed as yet,” she added.
Clive Lorde, deputy director of the Central Relief Emergency Organisation (CERO), who is here as a member of the international ODA team, also was concerned about the dam.
“You are unable to be sure as to the steps to be taken and what order.
“There is a plan for evacuation but that is going to be dependent on any additional heavy rainfall or whether there is any sign of the dam collapsing,” he said.
Government has not issued any public comment on the treacherous situation, but Brigadier Edward Collins, Chief Of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, said constant monitoring of the dam both by air and surface was being carried out by expert personnel.
While Georgetown returned to a semblance of normalcy, East Coast residents were still trying to come to grips with the reality of their fate.
Makeshift has become the operative word for these communities where residents have been left homeless or unable in some cases to either leave or return home because of the floodwaters.
Most have been forced to resort to being ferried by boat, which has become a booming trade with a short ride fetching a Guy$100 fee.

Compliments of the Nation News

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