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(CMC) –Residents in Trinidad and Tobago were on Sunday battering down for another night of heavy rains and possible thunder storms as the country continues to deal with adverse weather conditions that have resulted in at least 296 millimetres (mm) of rainfall over the past 24 hours.
The rains, which have been pounding the oil rich twin island republic since Thursday as a result of an Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), have caused widespread flooding across the country, shutting down highways and causing rivers to overflow their banks.
But Communications and National Security Minister Stuart Young told a news conference that the government has not declared Monday “a national shutdown” and appealed to workers who are able to do so, to report to their respective workplaces.
“At the end of the day we are asking people to exercise common sense and exercise caution,” Young said, as a result of the chaos that has taken place on the highways since the rains started.
The Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Service said that a mostly settled early night will give way to a few showers after midnight.
“There is the 70 per cent chance of a few showers becoming heavy and thundery especially near hilly areas,” the Met Office said, adding that while there will be sunny intervals on Monday, they will be interrupted by showers and periods of rain over broad areas.
“A few of these showers will become heavy and thundery especially over western and hilly areas of Trinidad. Gusty winds, street and flash flooding is possible in heavy showers and thunderstorms,” the Met Office warned.
Young said that residents should continue to do all that’s possible to save life and property, adding “we can expect overnight to experience some more unusual weather.
“I am hoping that it does not hit us the way it hit us on Friday night etc but no one can predict this with any level of certainty. At this stage do not take risks, we have our infrastructure working, we have our responders out, we have our shelters up”.
Young said the Keith Rowley administration intends to start the assessment of the damaged areas on Monday adding that “persons are going to need our help.
“We are going to try to get different types of supplies to persons, we are going to continue to getting the drinking water, even the bleach, the other clean type items …to those who are in need. We are doing the best that we can.
‘There’s not going to be a national shutdown. There are certain areas of Trinidad and Tobago that are still being affected and we will continue to do work on, but we need our citizens who can get to work to continue along their daily lives to do so.
“So I repeat at this stage, there is no national shutdown of Trinidad and Tobago taking place tomorrow. Persons however are urged to exercise extreme caution, especially coming up the Uriah Butler Highway,” which is impassable in some areas.
Education Minister Anthony Garcia said that a number of schools being used as shelters would remain closed and that efforts would be made to have them return to a state of normalcy as soon as possible.
“At times like these we have to step up and be our brother’s keeper I understand that parents may be concerned about schools being used as shelters and classes being disrupted.
“But I assure you that we will all work together for the class time that is lost while being gracious to our fellow countrymen that have been affected,” he added.
The Ministry of Health also announced that several hospitals and health clinics would be operational on a 24 hour basis and appealed to persons to be extremely careful.
The Met Office has continued the Red alert for Riverine flooding, which normally occurs when water levels in a river over-tops its banks and spills onto surrounding areas.
“This type of flooding is more widespread and usually lasts for several days. Currently river levels have exceeded threshold levels and some have already over-spilled their banks. Additional rainfall is expected hence river levels will remain at an elevated level over the next several days.”
It warned residents to take precautions to protect life, livelihood and property especially those residing along the Caroni River basin in Central Trinidad.
“Do not take unnecessary risks. There is a very high potential for major damage to property and infrastructure and for multiple lives to be lost. It is advised to stay indoors until the all clear is given by government officials. In addition please follow the instructions given by government officials,” the Met office said.
Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan told reporters that while there have been no reports to date of infrastructural damage to bridges, an assessment of some of the river causes will be undertaken from Monday.
The National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) and Tobago Emergency Operations Centre (TEOC) Sunday urged people impacted by flooding to remain patient “as we try to respond to high-risk communities, elderly, persons with disabilities, pregnant women and young children.
“Affected persons are advised to take the necessary precautions to preserve life and property. If impacted by the adverse weather, please contact your Municipal Corporation or the Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) through their toll-free hotline numbers.”
Young told reporters that he was impressed with the cooperation shown by the various communities and other stakeholders, saying “at times like this it is very important that we bond together as a country and we work with our fellow citizens to do what is right for those facing disasters.
“Today as I walked….along with ODPM and others what is aw was nothing short of heart-breaking. I walked into a number of houses from door to door, heard first-hand what people had experienced, the trauma they had gone through…and now the additional difficulties of trying to clean up.
“Citizens we must band together,” he said recalling some of the heroics of people who were assisting others in the storm, adding “I was heartened to see there was no creed, or race or religion …nothing like that”..
But Young said he was equally disappointed that the criminal elements had also sought to take advantage of the situation.
“I have asked the Commissioner of Police, I have asked the Chief of Defence Staff to get more officers on the ground in some of these affected areas,” he added.