It’s been over a week since I updated my blog and I want to apolgise to my readers for the delay.
We are slowly recovering from the effects of Hurricane Thomas which struck St Lucia last weekend (Oct 30).
Along with fellow St Lucians, my heart goes out to the families of those who died during the passage of the hurricane, and those who were injured or suffered loss in any way.
As of Friday (Nov 5) five persons were confirmed dead in the south-western district of Soufriere and two in the north. Seven others are reported to be missing
The storm lashed the island with winds of 70 miles per hour and stronger gusts, along with torrential rains that fell uninterrupted for 21 hours. Tomas passed some 40 miles south of St Lucia and, as a result, the southern part of the 238 sq mile island was most affected, including Bexon, Dennery, Laborie, Choiseul, Soufriere, Vieux Fort, Canaries, Anse La Raye and other communities in between. No official figures are available yet but the destruction was extensive.
The video footage below produced by St Lucian Arnold Henry, now residing in Calgary, Alberta, Canada provides some heart-wrenching scenes from the disaster.
Numerous homes, commercial buildings and vehicles were severely damaged or swept away by mudslides and floods. Some homes were covered by mountainsides collapsing unto them. All throughout the island roads were rendered impassable by flood waters, river silt and toppled trees. Some bridges were washed away. Landslides tore away several chunks from the island’s main highways, so heavy and sustained were the downpours. Rainfall in the south as measured by the Met office in Vieux Fort during the 24 hr passage of Tomas was over 593.1mm (23.35 inches) – 2 years of rainfall according to CNN.
Fierce winds tore off the roofs of many homes. Normally tranquil rivers turned into raging torrents. They flooded homes and business houses, washed away roads, inundated farms and destroyed crops and livestock in several rural communities. A number of rivers changed their courses completely, and in some cases flowed in places where there used to be roads and pathways. Many hillside farms and gardens were literally obliterated by landslides. The banana industry has been completely wiped out.
The town of Soufriere, home of the world-famous Pitons and several of St Lucia’s most picturesque sites, was the district worst affected by the storm. In addition to the tragic deaths and the victims unaccounted for, most of the area was ravaged by floods and massive landslides. Among the dead is the owner of the popular handicraft gallery Livity Arts Studio, Saby and his wife Eugenia. Perched high up on a hill alongside the West Coast road leading into Soufriere, the building was destroyed by a landslide. The community of Fond St Jacques, also in Soufriere, was the hardest hit area in the country. The bodies of a brother and sister were found buried in a mudslide which destroyed their home. Their mother and father are reported missing. The community was declared a disaster area and had to be evacuated.
Speaking to St Lucia-based HTS News, the Soufriere Parliamentary Representative Harold Dalson who was visibly shaken, said the area looked like a bomb had exploded there. He said some parts of the district, including Fond St Jacques, may never recover.
The southern town of Vieux Fort, the island’s second largest municipality, was cut off from the northern half of the island by fallen trees, landslides collapsed bridges and damaged roads, making the journey from north to south overland impossible for almost the entire week. Up to Friday (November 5) when it was partially cleared, only emergency vehicles were permitted access.
All the island’s utilities were severely battered. Winds and landslides downed several electricity poles and severely damaged the cell sites and network systems of all the telecommunications providers, causing an island-wide power and communications blackout.
The island’s entire water supply system has been severely damaged, affecting the water catchment areas, including the multi-million dollar Roseau Dam supplying water to the north, water pumps and other machinery. The island currently has limited access to water and it is not yet clear when supplies will be fully restored. GlobalMedic, a Toronto emergency response unit has reportedly deployed three members and a mass of purification equipment to St Lucia to provide 1.5 million litres of clean drinking water a day.
On the bright side, the lone power company LUCELEC succeeded in restoring electricity to most parts of the island two days after the storm. Telecommunications services were also restored relatively quickly. The main provider LIME had its landline, internet, mobile and cable TV services up and functioning in most of the affected areas within five days. For its part, the mobile provider Digicel was able to restore cell phone service to most areas approximately two days after the storm.
Damage to the hotel sector was not as severe as that suffered in the agricultural belt. Some hotels suffered minor structural damage, flooding and loss of landscaping.
Within 24 hours after Tomas struck, the French and the British were on hand to offer assistance. A French military helicopter airlifted supplies from Soufriere to Fond St. Jacque for residents who were left without food, water, blankets, medicine and other necessities.
Relief supplies were also airlifted from the British battleship HMS Manchester anchored off the coast of Soufriere for distribution to the homeless housed at shelters in Soufriere, while the sick were airlifted to hospitals in the north of the island.
The National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) and the local chapter of the Red Cross are spearheading the distribution of relief supplies to the affected areas and are being assisted by a team of doctors and other medical personnel.
How to Donate to Victims of Hurricane Tomas
Donations to help St Lucia can be made to the following accounts held by the St Lucia Red Cross – First Caribbean International Bank (FCIB) Bridge Street Castries A/C #2645392 swift code FCIBLCLC
Swift codes for intermediary banks for funds coming in the following
USD Wachovia Bank N.Y, SWIFT: PNBPUS3NNYC, ABA: 026005092
GBP BARCLAYS BANK, SWIFT: BARCGB22
EURO KBC BAN, SWIFT: KREDBEBB
Beneficiary Bank: FirstCaribbean Int’l
Bank Swift: FCIBLCLC
Donations of food, water, clothing and any other basic essentials are also welcome. Call 1.758.287.6244 for further details or visit the St Lucia Red Cross website at http://www.ifrc.org/address/lc.asp
Rotary Club of Gros Islet
Bank of St. Lucia, A/C No. 510753056 Rotary Club of Gros Islet Charity Account, Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, West Indies.
Swift Code: BOSLLCLC
The St. Lucia High Commission in London
Donations can be made to the Saint Lucia Disaster Relief Fund at Barclays Bank.
Account number is 23 83 92 65 Short code: 20 35 90