Unable to Save Their Houses, Jamaicans Manage at Least to Save One Another
By JOSEPH B. TREASTER
INGSTON, Jamaica, Sept. 13 - Karl Bradford swept a calloused hand toward the middle of the coffee-colored Hope River, raging swollen after the drenching rains of Hurricane Ivan.
"The church is gone," he said as a brilliant Caribbean sun struggled to break through retreating layers of gray storm clouds on Sunday afternoon.
"Right there where you see the river running, that's where the church stood," Mr. Bradford, a private security guard, said. The pastor's house had been right beside the church, he said, and now it was a pile of concrete slabs rising in the river like a stone outcropping.
The church and Bishop Melford Arnold's home were swept into the river along with a half dozen other houses in Tavern, a working-class neighborhood of Kingston, as Hurricane Ivan pounded Jamaica's south coast. An additional 10 houses were dragged into the water on the other side of the Hope River in the Kintyre neighborhood.
Somehow, no one was killed or injured in Tavern or Kintyre, but Anthony McKenzie said that moments after he had lifted his 9-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, to safety through a window and dived out after them, his house toppled into the river.
The patch of destruction in the foothills of eastern Kingston is emblematic of the work of Hurricane Ivan in Jamaica.
Though the wreckage in much of the island consists of uprooted and broken trees, and ripped-off roofs and awnings, government officials say they are receiving reports of total ruin in pockets of the country like Tavern and Kintyre. They are places that are hard to find on the map, but where people have been working for years to build homes, often a room or a section at a time. They now have no idea where they are going to live or how they could possibly rebuild.
In other parts of the country, at least 15 people have been killed.
Friday night, when Hurricane Ivan hovered over Tavern with winds up to 130 miles an hour, was a night of terror for those who lived near the Hope River.
It was also a night of neighbor helping neighbor, some holding hands in a human chain to hoist people and possessions out of the floodwaters in pitch darkness, with tree limbs and sheets of roofing flying around them. And it was a time of a daring police rescue of half a dozen people from flooded houses that eventually tore apart and were carried away.
Before the hurricane, debris had clogged the 20 or so narrow concrete channels running beneath the Tavern Bridge. Floodwaters backed up and then surged toward the bank of the road, cutting a new path for the river and washing away the land holding the church and the other buildings.
About 8 p.m. Friday, water began rising in the house nearest the bridge, where Lorna Wilson and her husband, Daniel Tomlinson, an auto body worker, were riding out the storm with their son, Tarik, 6.
"We heard a bang, and the wind and the water knocked the carport off into the river," Ms. Wilson said. They rushed to take shelter in a neighbor's house, she said, and "then we heard a big rumbling and saw our house in the river."
Most of the neighborhood still did not know the river was threatening. But about 9 p.m. Friday, Chevine Clark, 32, a hair stylist, decided to go out into the storm to see what she could see. She found knee-deep water gushing down River Heights Road and began yelling to sound the alarm.
Sandra Thomas, who is eight months' pregnant, was in her living room with her son Kemar, 15. Ms. Thomas said: "I heard somebody calling, 'The river is coming up. The river is coming up.' "
She stepped into the flooding road in front of her house with Kemar and called to her husband, Denzil, to grab their other son, Akeam, 5, and get out of the house. The churning water was already eating away at the footings of the church. As the church and Bishop Arnold's house tumbled into the river, someone called the police.
Constable Raymond Richards and several other officers answered the call. He said half a dozen people had been in the water. "We couldn't see them," Constable Richards recalled. "We called out to them and they responded."
He threw a rope in the direction of the voices, he said. Someone grabbed hold, and the police pulled a man and a woman and several children to land, one by one.
Carl Bailey's house and upholstery shop survived, but water rose almost waist high around his wife, Yvonne. Mrs. Bailey called to neighbors and, holding hands in the dark, half a dozen of them and Carl lifted upholstery tools and a sewing machine out of the water. Then the neighbors hoisted out Mr. Bailey and his wife.
"It was frightening,'' Mrs. Bailey said. "Sometimes there would be a glare in the sky and you could see a little. There were car doors and light poles floating down the road and even a dead cow."
The tin-roofed house that Mr. Bradford shares with his wife, Dawn Simms, and their three children is still standing, but the rushing water chewed into the soil at the edge of the foundation. They worry that the home may collapse.
"I feel stressed," Ms. Simms said. "My head hurts. Nothing like this
has ever happened here. I don't trust the house now, and we don't know
what the river is going to do."