Landslide cuts off Blue Mountains

PORTLAND, Jamaica – Communities in the Blue Mountains of south-west Portland are experiencing severe hardship after several landslides destroyed the main road between Section and Buff Bay.

During the passage of Hurricane Dennis earlier this month, landslides occurred at Section, Green Hill and below Cedar Valley. This is in addition to the landslide at Cascade late last year after the passage of Hurricane Ivan, which was made worse during hurricanes Dennis and Emily, according to the Jamaica Gleaner.

The landslide at Section has prevented cars and trucks from travelling from Cascade to Kingston via Section, while the Green Hill landslide prevents traffic coming from Buff Bay, Portland.

The landslides have resulted in economic hardships for coffee farmers, various eco-tourism attractions and the residents of the communities of south-west Portland.

Jimmy Beckford, farm supervisor at Cantomos Limited, a coffee farm at Spring Hill and a major employer in the area, said the landslides would affect them “a whole lot (because) we can’t get to the farm either by foot or vehicle”.

With the reaping of the crop two months away, the trees are now scheduled to be fertilised and manured. But none of the raw materials can reach the farm and it has been difficult for labourers to get to the farm. During reaping, the farm hires 80 to 90 workers per day from the surrounding communities and, from as far as Annotto Bay and from Orange Bay.

Althea Bryan, managing director of Blue Mountain Bicycle Tours, says she “can’t find the words to describe the effects of the landslides on her business.’

The original 18-mile bicycle mountain tour started below Hollywell, went through Section and Cascade and ended at Belcarres. En route, the cyclists would stop at the restaurant at Cedar Valley. Since the Cascade landslide, the route started at Cascade, and now there is not enough of the road existing to have a meaningful tour.

From 10,000 participants per year, numbers have trickled to nothing because of the destruction of the roads. She says the landslides can see her business losing $70 million a year. In addition, 75 per cent of her labour force comes from the mountain communities of Cascade, Station, Belcarres, Plymouth, Spring Hill and Buff Bay. Now she cannot afford to keep them working.

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