The northern coastal road leading to scenic Maracas Bay, Las Cuevas Bay and other villages along the northern coast was closed to all visitors until 6 a.m. Monday to allow the Ministry of Public works carry out emergency road repairs after part of the road. collapsed on Friday during torrential rain.
In a statement on Saturday, the ministry said the road will be blocked from the pillars and drivers have been urged to find alternative routes. The only other access to the villages on the north coast is via the Blanchisseuse road which is in poor condition and threatened by landslides and falling trees during heavy rains.
During a visit on Saturday, workers were nailing down sheets of black plastic to cover the bare ground in the area where half the road collapsed to prevent it from being waterlogged and collapsing further more.
Friday’s landslide occurred between the Lookout and Maracas Bay near the 10k marker. Landslides are an almost annual occurrence in the region, having occurred in 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2022, according to previous media reports.
Due to the severity of the skid, the Department of Works and Transport said North Coast Road will be closed from 5 p.m. Saturday until 6 a.m. Monday. Only single lane traffic is possible here. Yellow tape and orange plastic barriers have been placed at this site to alert drivers.
The road has been closed except to localized traffic from the piers at Saddle Road, Maraval to the 10km marker on the North Coast Road where repairs are in progress. The statement advises drivers to observe all signs and barriers, obey police officers, drive at reduced speeds and watch out for heavy equipment in the work area.
Friday’s landslide occurred within restricted traffic viewing distance of the 2018 landslide and a Bailey bridge and traffic lights had to be installed near the 11km marker resulting in traffic intense to get to and from the beach.
Residents said the bridge and lights were removed shortly before the pandemic in March 2020 when road repairs were completed and two lanes were restored.
Contractors from the Department of Public Works were on site around 9 a.m. and began laying down long sheets of black plastic, nailed to the asphalt and anchored with pieces of wood and rocks. The road slip zone is approximately 40 feet long by 12 feet wide. Traffic, sparse as it was, was still traveling in the eastbound lane.
The contractors said the plastic is being used as a preventative to ensure the remaining road does not collapse. One of them said in all likelihood that the remaining part could collapse.
Based on their initial assessment, the contractors said the water appeared to have seeped through an underground drain or culvert, causing the ground to flood and the road to collapse.
Contractors also covered the hole in the culvert near the mountainside with cement, so runoff will flow directly into the drain and onto the roadway, preventing further erosion at this weakest point.
Several residents said they believed recent construction nearby was likely the cause of the road slide. Dane Dennison, who has lived in Maracas for 34 years, said that about a year ago developers began cutting land on the hill causing a trail of rubble to fall near Carissal Trace.
Dennison said if residents hadn’t cleared the rubble drain themselves, the water would have crossed the road and entered his property across the road.
He believed that the cylinders under the road were clogged with debris like grass, tree trunks and gravel and blocked the flow of water which found another course eroding the foundation of the road.
Dennison said the barricades and signage erected to warn motorists were insufficient and hoped the department would repair the warning signs as a matter of urgency to avoid a potentially fatal accident.]
Two Guyanese tourists, Oona Goetghebeur and Leo Beliers La Fosse, who arrived on Friday said they noticed the landslide on their way to their Airbnb in Maracas but were uncrowded. They didn’t see the landslide as a problem. They were ready to enjoy the beach but disappointed that the beach was deserted.
Workers at Richard’s Bake and Shark in Maracas also complained about a lack of customers on what would usually be a busy day. Misty Garcia of La Fillette, a village just past Las Cuevas, said sales were very slow on Saturday and she expected it. continue in the weeks to come.
Garcia said she “would be scared to go on the road because you’re not sure with an upcoming rain like yesterday, if the road will crumble on its own.”
She said the immediate loss, if bathers do not frequent the restaurant, includes the costs of vegetables, sauces, flour and oil which will be unusable after today (Saturday) if their product is not not sold.
Another worker said that if bathers don’t come, “we don’t get paid”. Garcia said she was just hoping for the best after coming out of the pandemic and the bad weather warning. She said that for parents like her with her job as the sole source of income, “we just get a slap in the face with one thing after another.”
Workers at Richard’s Bake and Shark said there were far more infrastructure issues in the area and issues related to youth unemployment.