January seems to be the month of rain. It has been raining regularly with a particularly heavy onslaught of the stuff during the weekend of the 28th. For us coastal dwellers, what with the coastland being below sea level and all, long periods of rainfall mean one thing: the inevitable flood.
Guyana is flood prone because it’s about 2 metres below sea level. This means that if the sea rises due to, for instance, continuous rain, the coast, including our capital Georgetown, could be flooded. Global warming is not helping.
Now, most of the time it doesn’t flood the way Thailand floods, for instance. Most times, it’s just ankle deep stuff in some places. Where I live, the trenches will rise so they’re level with the streets and it looks like there’s a new lake which brings little boys from Goedverwagting running, in their underwear – getting ready for a swim. I recently acquired a pair of bright yellow rain boots just for such occasions and am not so secretly excited about having a legitimate excuse to wear them. I walked by those half naked boys in my yellow boots yesterday. We probably shared a mutual opinion on each other’s attire.
But once, it was not a fun flood.
Seven years back, to the month, we had our Worst Flood Ever – the flood of 2005.
I wasn’t here for that flood. I heard about it from my dad. All the rooms on the ground floor of the house had been covered in water and I’m pretty sure I remember him mentioning using a boat to get about the place. Of course, furniture and floors (and carpets) were ruined. But we sustained minimal damage overall (thank you, concrete).
Other people were not so fortunate. If you’ve ever been to Guyana, you’d know that the majority of houses here are wooden and not the sturdiest structures. You’d also know that we have a garbage problem.
In 2005, it rained so much that it flooded and the water was waist high in the streets of coastal villages. People lost personal belongings and livelihoods (crops, livestock). And then there were the waterborne diseases. Thirty four people died in the flood of 2005 – most of them from bacteria induced disease.
It was one of those natural disasters that make it to international news, inspire donations and then is forgotten by the rest of the world as time goes by.
Not so in Guyana, however. The flood of 2005 is both a time marker and a threat. Some people make reference to events with the preface “before the big flood” or “after the big flood”. And some people remembered, with worry, 2005 over the past rainy weekend.