Trinidad & Tobago: Dark Cloud, Gold Lining

Before daybreak yesterday, Trinidad and Tobago found itself under a barrage of heavy flooding. The Diego Martin and Maraval rivers, two major waterways that run through densely populated areas, burst their banks following torrential rains from a tropical depression.

In a sense, social media came to the rescue: netizens living in affected areas immediately started posting photos and videos of the damage on Facebook. They also posted regular status updates, which ranged from advising of the areas that were impassable to putting out calls for help. The Diego Martin valley, located at the northwestern tip of the larger of the two islands, Trinidad, was officially declared a disaster area, because of the extensive damage to homes and roadways and two deaths that resulted from landslides.

Papa Bois Conservation posted regular Facebook updates as well as a photo album of the destruction in Diego Martin, while Trinidad and Tobago News Blog posted this link, which re-routes to the blog's Facebook photo album of the flood and landslip damage in the La Seiva and Maraval areas (also hard-hit).

Facebook was the social networking vehicle of choice for quick communication – partly because netizens could directly contact people in their network, many of whom live close by and could come out to help with the clean-up – but Twitter was also a vital source of information, so much so that one Twitter user, Andre Thomas, commented:

@dre7413: By the time news story on at 7, areas done clean up already. Ppl getting their info from twitter/facebook/sms/bbm.

Another Twitter update included news that a key cellphone tower was down, making many residents of the worst hit areas unreachable by phone:

@richjob: TSTT Diego Martin exchange (Cellphone tower) his been compromised – Generators have failed and a wall has collapsed.

Blogger Trini Like Salt added:

A communications company’s hub is in a river.

The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management as well as journalist Samson Nanton did a good job of using their Twitter feeds to provide timely information. The scope of the disaster soon became clear:

@CaribbeanAccent: Historic, massive #flooding in west #Trinidad. :( Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said not since 1962 seen anything like this.

Even Trinidadians from the diaspora started weighing in:

@TriniLikeSalt: Lived all my Trinidad life in Diego Martin and Petit Valley. Family's been in De Valley since the 50s. Mih heart hurtin’, an’ ah vex.

But just as Trinbagonians’ hearts started to hurt, something amazing happened to make their hearts soar – even momentarily – in the midst of disaster: Trinidad and Tobago won its second Olympic gold medal in history, thanks to the stellar performance of nineteen-year-old Keshorn Walcott in the Javelin Throw event.

Trinidad and Tobago News Blog noted:

He is the youngest winner of the Olympic Javelin’s event, the first man in the Western Hemisphere to win the Javelin in 60 years, and the first to medal for Trinidad in a field event.

His mettle as well as his potential for Olympic gold was proven with his victory in the World Junior Championships in Barcelona.

Congratulations are in order for his monumental accomplishment at the 2012 London Olympic games.

Congratulations for Walcott were indeed all over Twitter, and the icing on the cake came a little later when the country's 4×100 relay men’s team won the bronze medal. Still, the floods seemed to overshadow everything. Trini Like Salt put the whole situation in perspective in a post titled “Today In Trinidad & Tobago History”:

19 year old wins first ever gold medal in an Olympic field event, and second ever gold medal in the country’s history.
4×100 relay men’s team wins the bronze medal.
My hometown gets declared a disaster area by the Prime Minister as a result of floods.
So that’s nice, innit?

The thumbnail image used in this post is by caribbeanfreephoto; photo by Dexter Paul, used with permission. Visit caribbeanfreephoto's flickr photostream.


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