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Resort developer denies building on St Vincent flood plain
Published on December 31, 2013 Email To Friend    Print Version


Buccament Bay resort in St Vincent, aptly described by the resort on its website as “cradled by lush mountains” but said by locals to be constructed on what is now claimed to be a “known flood plain”

By Caribbean News Now contributor

KINGSTOWN, St Vincent -- Harlequin Hotels and Resorts (UK) Limited, the owner of Buccament Bay Resort in St Vincent, which was severely affected by flooding from the recent torrential rains, has denied that the resort was constructed on a known flood plain.

In a letter to the editor (since amended following complaints of defamation from Harlequin’s in-house lawyers), Caribbean News Now reader Peter Binose said, “Buccament Bay Resort was built on a known flood plain and areas that were known as swamp. Flooding of this area has been happening since the very beginning of the valley, which acts like a great funnel draining into the bay itself.”

In response, Daniel Abrams, Harlequin’s in house solicitor, denied this assertion.

“Buccament Bay was not built on a known flood plain or swamp. The government provided building specifications that were complied with during constructions to avoid flooding etc. This scale of the flooding was unprecedented and could not have been foreseen when the resort was being designed and built. We understand that St Vincent suffered the worst rainfall for over 100 years and an act of god that could not be accounted for,” Abrams said.

According to Abrams, the developer carried out its own due diligence and would not have purchased land from the government on a known flood plain/swamp.

“Since construction started in 2006, this is the only event of its type which supports the developer and government sale. The extremity of the rainfall was the cause of the damage, nothing else,” he said.

Binose disputes any claim that denies the long term nature of the problem.

“Yesterday I interviewed several very old men in the valley; they told me that they remember this happening before, but before there was much development, when it was all farmland. They even told me of a big club house someway before the casino, which was destroyed and completely washed away during such a flood,” he said.

Abrams also denied reports that all Christmas and New Year guests at the resort were evacuated.

“This is completely untrue,” he said, “Some guests had to be moved to other accommodation within the resort but the resort continued to operate throughout.”

However, Liz Burrows, a guest at the resort who arrived on December 27, said that the resort should have been evacuated because the villas were a health hazard and not fit to be slept in.

“In the interests of guests’ health, no further guest should have been allowed on the resort until it has been cleaned professionally (not with hosepipes) and disinfected. The flood waters went through the majority of the resort carrying mud and water, and probably sewage through most of the site. Anyone walking around barefoot would surely be a risk to disease,” she said.

According to Burrows, guests demanded to be evacuated by the tour operator because of what they perceived to be the health risk at the resort.

In later comments clarifying his earlier letter, Binose said that Buccament village has in the past been subject to very serious sea surge, mainly when the wind reverses as hurricanes or big storms pass.

Layou, the town just along the coast, has a history of being battered by the sea, he said.

According to Binose, the Layou seafront sea wall was completed in 2006. The sea defence was built there because the town was inundated by seawater every time a major storm went by.

“Government planners and engineers spent years studying this coastline; I am sure they are fully aware of the sea surge threat in the area of Buccament, because it has happened before,” he said.

“My concern is that development has taken place in areas along the river that are prone to flooding. They have built many new houses and a very nice restaurant by the main road at Buccament. There is also the new resort,” he continued.

Binose claimed that a lot of this development took place without any extra protective engineering for the river in case of flooding.

However, Abrams said that Buccament Bay has river defences in place to provide for increased rainfall that have worked well until now.

“The water levels experienced in the last few days could not have been expected or prepared for. In fact, were it not for the river defences in place, the effect on Buccament Bay would have been far worse,” he maintained.

Binose acknowledged that, in the case of the resort, it did construct a river wall.

“But it’s my personal belief that it helped divert most of the water to Buccament village. There have been a number of previous complaints since the wall was erected by people living in the village of houses being flooded that had never flooded before,” he explained.

Abrams, on the other hand, rejected any blame on the part of Buccament Bay for the flooding of the village.

“This statement is untrue and with no evidence and will do nothing more than incite negative feeling towards the resort and potentially damage the business,” he said.
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Lenford O'Garro:

Let me ask a few dumb questions to the developers and their lawyers. Then answer the few dumb questions for them:

1. What is a floodplain? – Geologically speaking, it is any area that can be expected to flood occasionally in low, flat, lands adjacent to rivers, lakes and oceans.

2. What is a 100 year flood? – A flood event that has a 1% probability of occurring in any given year.

Now a few questions about the Buccament Bay Resort:

1. Is the resort next to a river?
2. Is the resort next to the sea?
3. Is the resort at or below sea level?
4. Did the developers build river defense? If yes, why did they build river defense if the resort is not in a floodplain? If no, why didn’t they build a river defense?
5. Is the resort in a floodplain?
6. Is the resort in a 100 year floodplain?
7. Does SVG have a rainy season?
8. Does SVG have a hurricane season?

Enough said!


Farmers have been affected almost yearly by floods in this area, it's worse when there's a weather system that causes heavy rainfall. Before the resort built a river defense the residents on the other side of that river never had to run from their homes or panic when it rains. While the effects of the floods to farmers was just a talk whenever it happens Don DeRiggs, a contributor to The Vincentian newspaper, have his experience of that river documented in the paper. He was on the Buccament beach on a nice sunny day, no signs of any rain at Buccament but there was a sudden rise of the river. I want Peter or CNN to try get DeRiggs written account of what happened on a sunny day.

Peter Binose:

Lenford O'Garro, thank you for your professional input.

If you look at the above photos you will see the original houses were built on the left edge of the incline, out of reach of any amount of flood water.

If you look at the resort it is built in the lowest point adjacent to the river, almost at sea level,

Why do you think that in the past 100 years no one built on that very low land?

Then along comes a developer and builds on the low land, several houses and some business's follow suit, and hey presto, disaster.

Now I wonder why no one built on that land before, why was it left undevloped for hundreds of years?

Not even any Carib relics or signs of settlement ever found on this low land, plenty in the foothills, none on the plain. Because like the rain in Spain, it falls mainly on the plain.

Mike Ingham:

Look, here in the UK currently we have experienced awful weather and flooding over the X-Mas period. Indeed, as I write there are 31 active flood warnings in force due to further unprecidented rainfall falling on already sodden ground which is set to continue over the next 3 days. Several rivers have burst their banks, coastal towns are getting battered with winds and heavy rain and houses flooded.

Does this mean that everyone who builds hotels and houses on the coast and next to rivers shouldn't have done so.?? ANSWER No!! Call it climate change, an act of God or whatever this is happening more and more worldwide. No amount of due dilligence can guard against such events.

I don't know why everyone is slating Harlequin and the Buccament Bay Resort. I have seen a picture today of the resort on facebook taken by a guest which is stunning and have visited twice myself.

Frankly, it is about time people started looking at Buccament Bay for what it is - a World class resort that is bringing millions and millions of dollars of revenue into SVG through tourism and providing the inhabitants with jobs galore and sponsorship of various projects.

Peter Binose:

Well if it isn't WINGEM INGHAM, the ghost writer for Harlequin.

This is not the UK, this a tiny postage stamp sized island, where everyone knows what happened today, yesterday and yesteryear.

You cannot in anyway compare the UK with Saint Vincent. We know that the river at Buccament has flooded many times before.

We also know that sea surge is also common in that bay.

So we have had a flood, still expecting the sea surge.

So Ingham, go post your rubbish on the Barbados news site, because we don't need it brought to SVG. Hope you get paid because my friend didn't.

Lenford O'Garro:

A few questions for Mr. Mike Ingham since he mentions the UK:

1. Does the river Thames have a flood plain?
2. Has the river Thames flood plain ever been flooded?
3. Has the river Thames ever flooded its banks?
4. Have the authorities in the UK ever claimed the low lying areas along the river Thames are not within the river Thames flood plain?

Because of climate change careful planning and necessary precautions are needed to prevent flooding in low lying areas (flood plains) next to rivers, lakes and oceans.

Why are they denying that the Buccament Bay Resort is in a flood plain?

Peter Binose:

LENFORD, they knew OK because I now have documentary evidence that they knew and even considered building a defense against such an event.


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