Following last weekend’s flooding from overtopping caused by unusual high tides across the country’s coastline, Government has taken steps to enhance sea defence protection as well as relief items for affected persons.Representatives from the stakeholder agencies at Tuesday’s National Emergency Operation Centre meetingOn Saturday, residents in several coastal villages were underwater from the unprecedented high tides, which lasted until today.According to authorities, the communities in Regions Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam), Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara), Four (Demerara-Mahaica), Five (Mahaica-Berbice) and Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) were affected by the current high waters.Stakeholders from the various agencies responding to the situation met on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the damages from the floods thus far and steps to be taken to prevent or alleviate similar impacts from another bout of high tides expected on October 26, 2019.Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson during his presentationUpdating the media during the National Emergency Operation Centre meeting, Senior Response Officer, Capt Salim October revealed that across the coastline, a total distance of approximately 148 kilometres was impacted by the floods, including some 65 communities across the various regions with Three and Five facing the severity of the floods.According to October, the impacts in Region Five were exacerbated by breached sea defence.Nevertheless, he noted that assessments thus far reveal that approximately 400 households were flooded, causing items to be damaged. He added too that affected persons have also suffered the loss of cash crops as well as livestock, including poultry and cattle, especially in Region Five. “Salt water accumulation did not only affect homes but the impacts were also to pasture lands that small- and large-scale ruminants are required to graze. There were noted sea defence structure breaches and overtopping of sea and river defences, which would’ve caused heightened levels of erosion. As well as noted, damage to agriculture inputs and by extension, the cascading effect of that is for loss of usual livelihood, and at this point potential livelihood – particularly, compromised rice crops from salt water accumulation,” he stated.The Senior Response Officer went on to outline that a number of response mechanisms have been undertaken, including the relocation of livestock to safe and higher grounds, the use of sandbags to protect properties, dredging drainage canals in communities, distribution of water and cleaning supplies to affected residents, and premature harvesting of crops as well as flash sale of crops and livestock.October further posited that while there has been notable cooperation from the various Regional and Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (RDCs and NDCs), one of the challenges faced was the lack of precautionary response from communities, even after being warned about the impending high tides. Nevertheless, as they gear up for the second bout of high waters later this month, Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson disclosed that steps are being taken to minimise the potential impact from the impending high tides – particularly at the East Coast Demerara-Mahaica locations, that is, from Fairview to Danzig.He noted that already, his Ministry’s Sea and River Defence Department had undertaken corrective works since March this year after the severe erosion was detected. A Contingency Allocation of $460 million was obtained from the Finance Ministry for those emergency corrective works, which entailed procuring rift raft and boulders to secure the sea defence at critical areas along the coastline in Region Five.But a further Emergency Contingency Allocation had to be secured last weekend in light of the floods.According to Patterson, there are three breaches and he has been instructed by Cabinet to immediately undertake short-term fixes ahead of this month-end’s high tide. This will see multiple contractors and stone suppliers being engaged to secure the already affected areas, which will require more money. The figure of these works is yet to be determined.“So we have a tight window of 24 days to try to, as fast as possible, seal as much as we can to minimise the damage… Of course, it may or may not be possible to seal everything and stop the overtopping but we want to minimise it,” the Minister asserted, adding that long-term fixes will need more planning and strategising in anticipation of heightened impacts in the future.Patterson added that a secondary goal now is to ensure that before the year-end rainy season, that the sea defences are intact during that time to prevent a further accumulation of water on low-lying communities.In the meanwhile, assessments are ongoing in the affected regions countrywide to ascertain the extent of the impacts from last weekend’s high tides.Director General of the Ministry of the Presidency (MotP), Joseph Harmon, told reporters that while authorities are awaiting the flood water to recede in some areas to conduct the assessment, this has been completed in Regions Two, Three, Four and Six.He noted that already, officials from the CDC – and in the case of Region Three, the Minister of State, Dawn Hastings-Williams – are in these communities delivering relief items to affected residents.“In the areas where we haven’t delivered anything, it is because we have to await the water receding and make a careful assessment of the damage,” he stated.Additionally, the MotP Director General told Guyana Times that financial assistance for the affected persons was discussed during Tuesday’s meeting, especially those who suffered losses from their livelihood.“What we’re thinking about right now is as part of our application to the Contingency Fund (for the emergence works) for a global sum to be awarded for [financial assistance] and for the Civil Defence Commission to advise on how it is to be dealt with in relation to regions, and working along with the Regional Disaster Preparedness Committees,” Harmon posited.On the other hand, steps have been by the Public Health Ministry to protect the flood-affected residents against water-borne diseases.In fact, Chief Medical Officer, Dr Shamdeo Persaud, explained that already, the Ministry’s Health Offices in the affected regions have been on high alert. He noted that in addition to advisory on health risks as well as safety and sanitary measures, interventions have been made in terms of distributing chlorine tablets to treat water and cleaning supplies to flood affected households with children.He noted that while no increase in flood-related disease has been reported from those affected areas, they are monitoring the situation and continue to partner with relevant agencies.Among the other stakeholder agencies at Tuesday’s meeting were the Guyana Livestock and Development Authority (GLDA), National Agricultural Research & Extension Institute (NAREI), Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) and the Hydromet Office.