Antrim land slippage worse than predicted –expert investigates

Emile Lancelot, Nathanael Isaacs, Dr. Derek Gay and Don Corriette

The Antrim Valley land slippage issue is now a matter of national concern as Geo Technical Engineer Dr. Derek Gay of the University of the West Indies describes the situation as “serious” and recommends the evacuation of the lone resident in the area immediately affected.

The Office of Disaster Management (ODM) called in Dr. Gay to provide a preliminary assessment of the situation on the ground.

He told media operatives this morning that there is seepages of water coming from the river bank about 100 meters downstream.

“We could see seepages of water coming from the bank, not over the bank but through the bank, within the soil…” Dr. Gay said. He added that this indicates that there is likely underground seepage.

Investigations have revealed a massive hidden landslide estimated at some 200meters long with a 60-70meter elevation from the river.

“The slide was pretty large. We did not expect it. The land is actually moving,” Dr. Gay said.

The water seeping through the bank is coming from an artificial lake that was formed in the area. The channel for the lake’s water to flow freely into the river has been blocked and the water has found other means of escaping. “That probably triggered the large landslide,” Dr. Gay speculated.

The situation as it stands is a seemingly an unstable hillside armed with “boulders larger than a car”.

According to the expert, if the dam breaks again it would have massive downstream effects. “I have said this to the ODM and they are taking meditative actions. The ministry is also on board.”

ODM Program Officer –Don Corriette said, “We have seen some of the effects of the land slippage and it is of a magnitude that requires the ODM to take action in sensitizing the persons immediately on site and down stream. We have started the process.”

Evacuation efforts are underway and the Public Works Ministry; Domlec and all others concerned are working in unison to have the sapped soil drained in order to reduce the rapidity of land movement in the area.

National disaster management Coordinator, Nathanael Isaacs says his office is preparing for a worst case scenario and has already had talks with community councils and schools in the underlying areas about the situation and possible precautionary measures that could be employed in the event of a massive slide.

Engineer in the Public Works Ministry, Emile Lancelot, said the situation has affected the progress of the airport road development project that passes through the area, just beneath the hill in question.

“Immediately after yesterday’s briefing the ministry spoke with contractors and give instruction to take actions with regard to improving the drainage in the area which appear to be swamped and where there is some form of damage being found,” Lancelot said.

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  1. LCM
    November 11, 2010

    @ the tongue

    From what I am reading it seems like a landslide is going to happen. so they can sit there and wait when it happens and people not prepared or do somthing about it. Explosions do not have to be Huge.

    Its all about finding workable solutions to a problem. Potetiall very dangerous. The concept is like firemen using fire to fight fire. Think about it. If there is a way to prevent the land slippage then forget my idea.

    November 10, 2010

    The road is to much on the edge cut inside the mountain

  3. The TonGue
    November 10, 2010

    TO LCM, in all due respect, you should reconsider your professional advice! based on what you typed, i take it that you know nothing about the area! the landslide is moving into the checkhall river, if that river is dammed, and later bursts the people of checkhall; i.e pioneer prep, massacre primary and everyone on the flat further in are in tremendous danger. explosives is HUGE no, no in this area. also, there is a Landslide susceptibilty map for dominica, as well as other hazard maps, that USAID spent time and money on developing, the question is why arent any of these utilized by government departments?
    Someone made mention of “the french man”, last time i checked, it was a frech man, or french team who ordered that this road NOT pass in this area, but as always, true professional advice is also disregarded in Dominica. It is the greed of the our local people that caused the land fill to be where it is, and as a result a major catastrophy.
    And like alot of you said. WHO is going to take the blame?
    I do hope that in Mr. Lancelot’s attempts in improving the drainage DOES NOT include a backhoe or ANY other HEAVY machinery, as these will 1) shake up the land that is already UNSTABLE, 2) cause these equipments to be stuck, 3) cause the water that is stored to be released rapidly, bringing everything around it DOWN!!! PLEASEEE be smart about this!

  4. LCM
    November 10, 2010

    As I have said on this medium before, Landslides is and will be the most dangerous disaster to affect life and property in Dominica. I need not explain why. I remember in 1998 two days of constant rainfall caused over two hundred landslides in the north. Luckily no one got killed.

    I will give you my professional advice on the situation. I think the Ministry of environment and health, communication and works and housing should come together and develop a Landslide mitigation plan for the entire country. First they should identify the areas according to risk levels which would limit the kind of land use.

    I do not think it is wise to sit and wait for the land to slide naturally. If a small earthquake happens tomorrow it is going to move. The situation seems like slippage is inevitable so I suggest the Government organize an evacuation for a day or two, try draining as much water as possible and set some explosives in the slippage area. That will allow the slippage and cleanup to be controlled. The explosion will get rid of the pending danger and any other loose area and may help stabilize certain areas and also give the engineers control of the situation. I just do not think it is wise to sit and wait when we know it is going to happen. This will be more dangerous.

  5. ....................
    November 10, 2010


  6. fish
    November 10, 2010

    to the residents when they give the “it’s time to evacuate” please take heed and move, life is important! it’s not an easy decision, it’s not an easy thing to accept but such is life and these is nature we cannot fight it! God is in control!

  7. Gyptian
    November 10, 2010

    @ Farmer – I know the area very well. Let me now ask, is it really the ‘frenchman’ who ordered these thousands of tons of earth and stone to be dumped on unsuspecting PEOPLE’S land which has now caused the problem?! Or maybe someone else? Let’s get the facts straight for this one I think that we may be surprised just who. What are the authorities saying? It happened under their watch? As usual noone wants to take responsibility!

  8. Environmentalist
    November 10, 2010

    @mention: I totally concur with you that such a serious problem looming ahead, but Dominicans shy from commenting. Maybe the subject is beyond many or it is not a partisan sensation or people just do not care two hoots with regards to the magnitude of the environmental disaster that could result from that land slippage.

    Frankly, with the lackadaisical attention given to EIAs relative to large scale road works as well as other National Projects, and the inefficiencies of Planning Dept. and Ministry of Public Works, especially in timely Monitoring, Reporting and Evaluation of such large scale projects, expect those problems to magnify.

    Dominicans should be asking whether the foreign contractor involved in the rehabilitation of that Canefield to Pondcase road and the Ministry responsible allowed BAD CONSTRUCTION PRACTICES to take place, which resulted into further environmental problems in that Antrim area. Protection of our environment usually is the last concern for those Companies. Making Maximum profits, irrespective of collateral damages, is given priority over environmental protection and conservation.

    In the final analysis, the country ends up spending much more money than anticipated due to mediocrity, inefficiency, short cuts, very little or no considerations to EIAs of those projects. Certainly, that is not the PRICE the country should pay for DEVELOPMENT.

  9. Radio Cord Patate
    November 10, 2010

    Dominica is one of the islands that proves that plate tectonics does exist. The west coast is sinking while the east is rising. So most of our land slippage is on the west coast. I learnt that at A- Level geography so i did not pick it off the road.
    Gravity still exists and with all the other factors of climate change, deforestation, excavations, constant earth tremors (even if we don’t feel them) are facts of life- whats goes up must come down. We can either facilitate the speed at which it occurs.

    When you sit and look at Dominica do you really think that this beautiful rugged island was created without some violent acts of nature? Its just that man is in the way now so…our governments will have to figure out how we are going to preserve life. BUT CHANGE WILL COME.

  10. concerned citizen
    November 10, 2010

    Human activity is definitely one of the contributors to this slide. That area have had a history of landslides but this was accelerated by overloading of the slope. Excavated material was taken from red gully and dumped on that slope. This has been a concern of the residents for months. It took 3 months for that to be addressed publicly. No one wanted to jump to conclusions so foreign experts were sourced to evaluate the problem and the cause. Any expert would tell u that if u overload a slope it will fail, u will have landslides.
    We must be very careful about where and how we dump excess material. This may not be the only contributor to this land movement but coincidentally that kind of land movent started when soil was dumped there. I am not saying any one contributor is responsible. There are a number of factors involved in the failure of slopes, u have water weakening the slope, the normal land movements of earth and increase in loads on the slope. Think for a while and tell me what accelerated the landslides.

  11. Poule Coutouni
    November 10, 2010

    Nobody is calling the name of a French (Government of Dominica) national constructing the Canefield to Pond Case road and perhaps messing up things for us. How hypocritical can we be! Then again perhaps some important “official” interest is being protected….Who knows..? some of us do…

  12. jano
    November 10, 2010

    This is a very serious situation, land slippage caused 3 deaths in san sauveur recently. People need to take precaution

    November 10, 2010


  14. engine number 9
    November 10, 2010

    thats the same thing that happening in belles(where the road keep sinking)

  15. yout
    November 10, 2010

    A picture would be nice specially to those who have no idea where Antrim Valley is.

  16. farmer
    November 10, 2010

    The problem has been compounded by the french contractor who made shortcuts based on ignorance.
    He dumped loads and loads of clay onto the sinking area thus overloading it and creating a dam effect.
    The area has always had an underground stream being

  17. mention
    November 10, 2010

    it’s a funny thing with information of great importance you find so few comments. This is just to show you how some people love propaganda news. This is thing we should have high on our agenda commenting on because people lives are at stake and we don’t know when disaster will happen. I for one is a regular user of that road and i pray everything will be safe for all the people using that road. Now,the information i have gathered is that its not safe to pass Layou Valley because of the damn and also imperial road because of the mud slide. I think we need an alternative route when going up to the round-about. Anyways God please put a protective and on the people of this land and guide us..

  18. William McLawrence
    November 9, 2010

    Land slippage is becoming a growing problem around Dominica. We must appreciate that due to Dominica’s rugged terrain and volcanic nature we can expect this type of activity in many places throughout the island and particularly in areas where there has been soil distrubances either through natural action or man’s actions. The problem is further compounded by the growing impact of our own actions and that of Climate Change on our natural environment.

    I recently lamented on the fact that too many of our trees are cut down and not enough trees are replanted, this has affected our island’s water table and rivers and streams. I often wonder why the Planning Division give people permission to build on certain hillsides which if left in its natural state/undisturbed is ok but once we begin to cut into the hillsie to build the once stable hillside become unstable. To compound this situation we cut down our trees and plant concrete surfaces around our houses in place of those trees creating disturbing concrete jungles.

    This situation in the Antrim Valley also brings to light another area of concern; the Layou Valley and the so called Miracle Lake.

    I urge all concerned to listen very instructively and please adhere to the call by the Office of Disaster Management (ODM) to move/evacuate when asked to do so. Remember you are not doing the ODM a favor by moving you are doing yourself and your family a good deed by protecting yourself and family from what appears to be imminent danger.

    I also urge every Dominican to become more vigilante and more conscious about the impact of Climate Change. It’s here and it’s real and has already begun to change our way of life.

    May the God of Israel guide and protect us…all.

  19. Hyo
    November 9, 2010

    @MangoSweet: thanks!

  20. my my
    November 9, 2010

    please get picture so we have and idea where this place is.we need prayers

  21. Geotechnical Engineer
    November 9, 2010

    This seems to be a very serious case. Dominicans please take this serious. Take the evacuation very seriously. We have seen what landslides can do. A number of things can trigger landslides: Earthquakes, heavy rainfall, excavation at the toe (bottom) of the slope, overloading etc. This land is moving slowly now, but it can reach a tipping point and the results can very very catastrophic. FYI: soils weigh about twice that of water (about 120 lb per cubic ft (pcf) as oppose to water which is about 62.4pcf). You don’t even have to be completely covered by soil for it to kill you – eg if you are buried from your waist down the soil pressure can cut of blood supply to your lower body and infection can kill you. I am really trying to scare you, because a massive landslide can be real bad. I would avoid travel in this area especially in periods of heavy rainfall which occurs quite often in D/ca. At this time, if the equipment is available, I think the authorities should start taking soil borings to characterize the soils, and determine what time of failure, and the factor of the likelihood of total failure.

  22. Geologist
    November 9, 2010

    Is Anthrim Valley the only place moving on Dominica “NO,NO”

    Jimmet is Moving

    Bells is moving

    also when you drive on Dominica’s roads, you see the roads, often borken, indicating soil movements.

    Geologist can’t tell the truth, politican, always ask us to keep our information, on a DOWN-LOW.

  23. anonymous
    November 9, 2010

    @VALDA BRUNO DURAND: get a life valda whoever you are
    get your own phd and stop with this chip you have on your shoulder

  24. Patat
    November 9, 2010

    A few Countries in the Caribbean like Jamaica has land bridges or what some may refer to as flyovers.

    AS a result of a high water table, mountainous terrain, lots of forest or green cover, and high annual rainfall and soil types that absorb lots of water the area in question along with the Bena/Canefield East/Cockrane areas will experience a number of landslides and these slides will become greater.

    Many of the slopes are almost free-face and well over two thousand feet above sea level.

    The question that will occupy many stakeholders’ minds will include:

    (1) Do we challenge our engenderers to consider tunneling these mountains to construct safer roads at a reasonable cost?

    (2) Can we have all our geologist, agriculturalist, economist, environmentalist, hydrologist, and civil engineers and planning authorities, jointly look at Google Earth areal pics of Dominica generally and the specific area of concern and come up with an approach that would mitigate against severe impacts on our water resources for Dowasco, farmers in the area, residents, commuters, and share of national budget?

  25. smart dominican
    November 9, 2010

    good to see that they have respected the power of water. please ensure that proper corrective measures are taken and err on the side of caution. just look at what H2o has done to St. Lucia

  26. MangoSweet
    November 9, 2010

    @Ras B: Ras B, and others who MAY not know where ANTRIM is located. If you know where the large water treatment facility is located when driving up to Springfield along the Canefield-Pont Casse Road. The problem (moving) area is a few hundred meters past the water teatment facility.

  27. Miami
    November 9, 2010

    A picture would be nice specially to those who have no idea where Antrim Valley is.

  28. Watcher
    November 9, 2010

    @VALDA BRUNO DURAND: Valda why do you always seem to scream when you comment? Put off the Cap lock and I know you can type better than this. I have seen you comment in proper case before. It is not good ettiquette to write all in upper case.

  29. Ras B
    November 9, 2010

    Valda, where is Antrim valley? I know the name but can not lace it. Kindly help.

  30. Dominican girl
    November 9, 2010

    Forgive me….but where is that area close to? not sure

    November 9, 2010


  32. I thought so...
    November 9, 2010

    I had a sense that this was bigger than it was made out to be. I’m glad it has been investigated and something can be done about it before it’s too late…

    I just hope the landowners listen to the authorities. It’s so sad. That road is a crucial link to the east. Let’s all hope for the best.

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