AFTER THE FLOOD: Workmen were busy up to yesterday cleaning up at Riu Reggae after flood waters raged through the lobby and ground floor rooms on Monday afternoon. The water marks on the cars parked in the background indicate how high the water reached. The clean-up crew worked feverishly to clear the sea of mud which was deposited in front of the hotel. – CWP photo

Clinton Pickering – Freelance Writer

Three years in succession, the Riu Reggae hotel at Rose Hall in Montego Bay has been impacted negatively by flooding in the wake of heavy showers. The flooding is caused by a build-up of debris in a drain that runs from the Flower Hill/Salt Spring hills with heavy rainfall, such as Monday afternoon’s sudden downpour.

Riu Hotels Regional Director, Frank Sondern, says “There’s some serious work to be done on the drainage (as) any water that falls into it you have sand and stone, debris and marl, everything comes down.” The drain runs under a bridge by the hotel and Mr. Sondern pointed out that because the hole was very narrow, it always backs up.

About this time in 2018, again in 2019 and now this year, Riu Reggae has had to deal with floodwaters. This time round, the lobby and ground floor rooms were flooded, resulting in the relocation of some guests. On Monday, operations were disrupted for hours in the first instance. Dinner was delayed as cleaning got underway and there was a brief power outage. “For about three hours it affected the operations but after 7:00, we had already opened the bar and at 8:00 o’clock we had the show area ready,” said Sondern.

At the time of the unexpected deluge, there were about 305 guests in-house at the hotel. More than 100 had checked out earlier so as not to be caught in the 3 p.m. curfew hour that was in force.

Staff from Ocho Rios and Negril have joined the Riu Reggae work crew in the clean-up which continued into yesterday.

Acting on behalf of Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Horace Chang, Senator Charles Sinclair led a team of officials, including Mayor Leeroy Williams, to the flooded scene yesterday morning. He told Sondern, “We have to show our commitment to you as an industry player in the tourism sector and we do appreciate the challenging times that we’re in.”

While awaiting the arrival of a technical team from the National Works Agency, Sinclair addressed remarks to the wider public “because regarding the situation in the drain that we examined, where the problem arose, I saw a lot of plastic and plastic bottles which speaks to the illegal depositing of waste in areas that can cause them to get into the channels.”

Tree cuttings also contributed to the clogging of the waterway “and what that speaks to, when you consider where the drain is coming from; all the way up in the Flower Hill/Salt Spring area, is that we may be having persons who are just cutting the lumber for farming purposes, for coal and so forth and they get into the waterway and contribute to the clogging.”

Sinclair said especially in this time of climate change, serious consideration had to be given to how mankind operates, bearing in mind the country is having more and heavier rainfall and with the earth being saturated, there is quicker run-off.

Mayor Williams said solving the flooding problem “definitely has to be a public-private sector partnership because we cannot afford to have a recurrence of this.” For its part, the St James Municipal Corporation councillors have been directed to pay attention to cleaning drains in their divisions.