Community split in two - Berrydale residents use raft to get home

February 22, 2019
Raft captain Vincent Valentine assists a blind resident, who lives across the Rio Grande in Berrydale, Portland, to get home.
Raft captain Vincent Valentine assists a blind resident, who lives across the Rio Grande in Berrydale, Portland, to get home.
Berrydale residents now use a raft to get home after the community was split in two a couple years ago.
Berrydale residents now use a raft to get home after the community was split in two a couple years ago.
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It has been little more than two years since six days of heavy rains hammered sections of Portland.

The downpour was so devastating that it left hundreds of residents in Berrydale marooned, as the only access road into the community was blocked.

The Rio Grande overflowed its banks and even parted the district in two. The Fellowship square in the Rio Grande Valley also told a frightening tale, as murky water, which rose as high as five feet in some sections, had inundated the stretch of roadway leading to Berrydale.

Currently, residents living on the western end of the community have to be transported via raft to the opposite side. The raft was provided free of cost by the Portland Municipal Corporation and is operated up to 8 p.m.

VERY DANGEROUS

"We are out here as early as 5:30 a.m. to carry over the kids so they can reach school on time. Sometimes in the evenings, they are afraid, and I will take them straight home. Simple as you see this water, it is very dangerous and is not always this calm. So we have to make sure that everyone who crosses gets to the other banks safely. I pay special attention to the children," said raft captain Vincent Valentine.

Valentine said although he earns a salary for transporting the residents, he is hoping that very soon the relevant authorities will build a bridge in the area. He said that work began on the structure, but ended abruptly.

"The tourists find it amusing when they see us taking over the people who live on the other side. But besides being a sort of attraction, it is not always safe. If rain should fall really heavy and river comes down, anywhere night catch you, that is where you have to stay," he said

"When we stop working in the night and if persons want to go to parties or anything, they have to come over from early because not everyone will chance the waters cause the river gets rougher at nights. People, on the other side, don't have interest in buying cars because you would have to park it on the opposite side," he said.

Similar sentiments were echoed by a nearby shopkeeper, who recalled how his establishment was flooded two years ago.

"I could never forget that day when mi watch the water reach mi bar counter and all a take away mi fridge, and I couldn't do anything. The water broke the banks, and the entire community looked like a sea. It was horrible. Those who lived in two and three story buildings were safe, but for others, the water threatened their lives. I would really want to see a bridge built," he said.

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