Residents of the Upper Mazaruni riverine community of Jawalla, Region Seven (Cuyuni/Mazaruni), are now regrouping their lives after a freak storm that struck on Friday last at about 15:30h had brought them heavy winds and rainfall, along with lightning and thunderstorms, destroying 34 buildings in the area.
The roofs of some buildings were damaged while other buildings collapsed entirely, one resulting in the death of 27-year-old Marsha Jordan, who was seven months pregnant at the time. The death of Jordan and her unborn child has plunged the entire community into a state of shock and mourning.
When tragedy struck, Jordan and her two children were sheltering from the heavy rains under a house, when a strong wind caused the building’s support to weaken and it came crashing down. Jordan died instantly from severe head and neck injuries sustained, while her two children managed to escape death with minor injuries.
According to residents, freak storms like this one occur often but have never previously resulted in the death of anyone. Minister within the Indigenous Peoples Affairs Ministry, Valerie Garrido-Lowe, and Minister Dawn Hastings-Williams met with residents and the family of the deceased Jordan to offer them comfort and support.
Major Sean Welcome of the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) and Dr. Shamdeo Persaud, Chief Medical Officer of the Ministry of Public Health, accompanied the ministers to determine how their respective organisations could aid in the rebuilding of the community after the natural disaster.
“We were talking about how perhaps we can bring engineers — the army engineers — to come and look at the structures of the houses, to see how we can build strong houses to withstand these freak storms that happen every now and then. I understand now it is increasing,” Minister Garrido-Lowe is quoted by the Department of Public information as saying.
Upon assessing damaged buildings, especially those that collapsed, the team recognised the need for a redesign in the way wooden structures are built in the area.
The building which crushed Marsha Jordan was considered a ‘disaster waiting to happen’. The elevated building was placed on wooden blocks approximately four feet off the ground.
With the structures being redesigned, Jawalla residents are being urged to play their part in this rebuilding process.
The CDC and the Indigenous Peoples Affairs Ministry contributed building materials to the village, and the toshao has been tasked with mobilising men from the community to undertake the task of rebuilding Jawalla.
The two ministers also committed to being a part of the rebuilding process by making individual contributions.
Meanwhile, a new home is to be constructed for Jordan’s husband, Gilbert Jordan, and the two children, Carmeline and Zalepha Jordan. “It would be a good thing if the men of the community come together, saw boards, and let us build a new house for Gilbert Jordan and his daughters.” one of the ministers expressed.
The Civil Defence Commission would be supplying the village with relief supplies, including foodstuff, cleaning agents, and other items needed for basic living.