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By Kenton X. Chance

Residents of Sandy Bay on Sunday recounted to iWitness News accounts of their narrow escapes as a river destroyed several houses during the passage of the trough system last week Tuesday.

Residents of Sandy Bay on Sunday recounted to iWitness News accounts of their narrow escapes as a river destroyed several houses during the passage of the trough system last week Tuesday.

The trough system has changed the physical landscape of the north of the country.

While vehicle access has been restored, the journey to that area was still treacherous.

Large amounts of sand and other debris were still on some parts of the road and some sections of the road are now precariously near embankments were retaining walls have given way.

In Sandy Bay, a dry river overflowed its banks and destroyed six houses in one area.

The area in Sandy Bay where the houses were destroyed. (IWN photo)
The area in Sandy Bay where the houses were destroyed. (IWN photo)

Dian Nanton was among those who lost her house to the raging waters.

Her mother, sister, aunt, and some neighbours also lost their houses when what is generally a small river became a raging torrent as the latest weather system to affect St. Vincent and the Grenadines over the past few weeks poured large amounts on water onto already saturated soils.

Nanton told iWitness News on Sunday that she and her children, along with her mother, stepfather and nieces and nephews decided to abandon her houses as the level of the river rose.

She said she was living the area for 15 years but had never seen the river, a seasonal flow, rise to those levels.

Dian Nanton lost here house. (IWN photo)
Dian Nanton lost here house. (IWN photo)

“And my great grandmother was living here. If she was still alive, it would be about one hundred years since we lived here on this land,” Nanton said.

She told iWitness News that her experience was “The worst ever.

“It was terrible,” she added.

In addition to losing the three-bedroom house itself, Nanton and her family lost all of its contents.

She said that her sister had built an apartment about a month ago and was living inside with her three children.

“That was the first part that went away,” she said.

Nanton told iWitness News that no one was injured when the houses were destroyed.

“But my sister and her three children almost [got washed way]. We had to take them out of the window. The water was surrounding them. They were sleeping. They didn’t know anything.

https://youtu.be/2XgCSkmS1uA

Omori Hoyte, 23, and his older brother used to run a food and drink business in a building where their uncle lives with his family.

Hoyte, who lives elsewhere, went to check on his uncle and the business after his mother woke him up.

“I saw the water surround my uncle’s house. He was inside with his family … Afterwards, the water cooled down a little, we got through to take them out. We sent over a rope.”

He said that at one point his uncle and family were attempting to leave the house through a window, but he had to tell them that the waters were high.

Hoyte said that his uncle was using a bed lathe to test the depths of the water but the lathe was not touching the ground.

Omari Hoyte lost his business as a result of damage to the building in which it was located. (IWN Photo)
Omari Hoyte lost his business when floodwaters damaged the building and washed away its contents. (IWN Photo)

He pointed out to iWitness News the extent to which the water had washed away land from the area, exposing some three feet of the foundation of the house.

Hoyte told iWitness News that about 10 minutes later, the water washed away two houses and damaged another.

He said it was a “terrible” experience.

“I’ve never experienced something like that before.”

Hoyte was unable to save anything from the business.

“When the morning cleared out, everything was gone. River took it. Freezer — everything was at the beachfront,” he told iWitness News, adding, “I don’t have a plan for right now until everything is sorted out.”

Janetta Hoyte-Collins, seen here with her 18-month-old daughter, survived Hurricane Tomas in the house that the trough system destroyed. (IWN photo)
Janetta Hoyte-Collins, seen here with her 18-month-old daughter, survived Hurricane Tomas in the house that the trough system destroyed last week. (IWN photo)

Janetta Hoyte-Collins also lost her house that she moved into after Hurricane Tomas in 2010.

She told iWitness News she was inside the house sometime after 11 p.m. and was monitoring the river by looking through the window and door.

“When I got scared was when the current (electricity) went,” Hoyte-Collins said, adding that she was then unable to see the water level.

She said she used her tablet computer to see outside.

“When I looked out, I saw the water almost in the yard, and then I spot the tablet over the riverside and I saw the river was already blocked and the water was coming over the side.”

Hoyte-Collins said she saw that the situation was serious and decided to leave the house.

She said she got her 18-month-old daughter and her son, 7.

“I didn’t even study my husband because he didn’t want to leave the house. I ran with my two children. Before I left, I went downstairs and woke up my daughter. If I didn’t go downstairs to wake her up, the water would have flushed her out from downstairs.”

She said her husband left the house about 10 minutes later and they went to her mother’s house.

Some time later, Hoyte-Collins’ sister told her that her house was washed away.

“Well, my emotion wasn’t there at the moment,” Hoyte-Collins told iWitness News.

“I didn’t cry or anything like that. It was the next day that tears came to my eyes when I realised that I did not have a home anymore.”

Hoyte-Collins said that the house, which had three bedrooms upstairs and one downstairs, was incomplete and her husband was planning to do some additional work on it before Christmas.

The family had moved into the house when Hurricane Tomas struck St. Vincent in October 2010.

At that time, only the ground floor of the house was complete.

“And we slept there the night with all the cement and rat — whatever was inside there; cockroach or whatever was inside there, we slept there the night.”

Several houses were located in this area before the trough system. (IWN photo)
Several houses were located in this area before the trough system. (IWN photo)

Hoyte-Collins said she has lived in the area all her life.

“I grew up there,” she told iWitness News but said she has never seen anything like the impact of last week’s weather system.

“This is a totally new experience for me. I haven’t seen anything like this before. I lived there all my life; from the time we came back from camp in ‘79, I lived there,” she said in reference to the eruption of La Soufriere volcano.

“I have never seen anything like this. This is beyond my belief, I couldn’t believe that this thing happened — and seeing the river that wide.

“… It was like, ‘look at this. Look at how the water just spread out the whole river and just take whatever was nearby,” Hoyte-Collins said.

Regarding the next step, Hoyte-Collins, who was staying at the emergency shelter at the Sandy Bay Government School, said she was waiting on the government for the OK to rent a house.

Rolicia Nanton and her 1-year-old baby escaped as flood waters began to enter her house. (IWN photo)
Rolicia Nanton and her 1-year-old baby escaped as flood waters began to enter her house. (IWN photo)

Rolicia Nanton, who was also in the emergency shelter, also lost her house.

She told iWitness News that when she woke up around 1 a.m. she realised that there was no electricity in the house.

She said she used the flashlight on her cellphone to find a candle.

“When I looked on the ground, water on the ground — soaked the rug and everything.”

Nanton said she then heard her mother telling her to come out of the house.

She said her mother told her to exit the house through the window because the front door was flooded with water.

Nanton told iWitness News she handed out the three children who were inside and then she left.

She said that she and another person went back later to get some stuff from the house and while inside, the person who was there with her told her that the house had broken away.

She said they then left.

“I didn’t know the house washed away until the next morning. When I went down, I saw the house was washed away completely. Not even the foundation was there,” she told iWitness News of the former one-bedroom concrete house in which she lived with her children, ages 3 and 1.