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.