Editorial


Flashback: In this January 14, 2022 photo, Giles Garcia climbs a rope to get out of the landslip which claimed his home at Diamond Road, Claxton Bay. Photo by Lincoln Holder
Flashback: In this January 14, 2022 photo, Giles Garcia climbs a rope to get out of the landslip which claimed his home at Diamond Road, Claxton Bay. Photo by Lincoln Holder

The Estate Management Business Development Company (EMBD) has failed to compassionately address the disastrous collapse of homes at Claxton Bay, where six houses have been either destroyed or are at risk of imminent collapse since a landslip in September 2021.

The residents believe that quarrying at the licensed Coco Road sand quarry nearby – overseen by the EMBD – is responsible for the geological catastrophe.

The account of 45-year-old Giles Garcia of what at happened to his home at Belleview Village is terrifying. At 3 am on September 15, 2021, the Garcia family woke to shaking ground and found the walls of their house buckling and the roof caving in.

Mr Garcia relied on his safety training in the energy industry and his wife’s experience as a policewoman for the family’s safe exit from a crumbling house that later slid 200 feet downhill. To save their cars, bricks had to be jammed into the widening cracks in the road for them to cross over.

Social Development Minister Donna Cox visited four days later to offer affected residents rental-assistance grants and a co-ordinated relief response to the tragedy.

That didn’t happen.

The EMBD began sending notices advising “Urgent relocation” to residents of homes affected by the landslip in January – the state agency’s first official communication with the residents.

By then, Mr Garcia’s neighbours, the Williamses, were sleeping in their cars on their property.

The EMBD letter acknowledged a danger to life and property, in the first official identification of the area as a potential disaster zone.

If this damage had been the result of flooding or an earthquake, the response would have been better co-ordinated and definitely more expeditious and supportive.

Mr Garcia has had to wait, like a supplicant, for an extension of the rent assistance grant given three months after the initial landslip.

Six homes and 15 residents have been affected by the land slippage and seven months after Mr Garcia’s home slid down the hillside, the EMBDC is yet to demonstrate either compassion or concern for the challenges these families face.

Rental assistance has been both inadequate and sporadic, electricity has been cut and the families are now considering court action.

In an unseemly turn, the first response to a letter from attorney Prakash Ramadhar’s firm was an offer to pay rent for the families, in an amount almost double that offered by the government through its social assistance programme.

The lack of concern or tangible assistance to these families is not a good look for the EMBD, and the fact that it took a legal letter for it even to offer to do something about the situation is even worse. To offer a few months’ rent is to toss them a crumb: where are they expected to live for the rest of their lives, now that their homes are gone or unlivable?