CASTRIES, St Lucia – At least 12 people were confirmed dead and several communities across the St Lucia remained cut off today following widespread destruction caused by Hurricane Tomas over the weekend.
Government said that the damage caused by the storm could surpass US$100 million.
(Currently rumored to be at 300 million US$ - Nov. 17th)
The southern town of Vieux-Fort was among the worst hit by the Category One storm, while five bodies including those of the owners of a popular craft shop in Soufriere, recovered from the wreckage of their homes that were hit by landslides.
“I would say to you right now we have 12 confirmed dead…unfortunately there are still people who are buried….,” Tourism Minister Allan Chastanet said on local radio.
He said that the roads to the town, where the famous Piton Mountains and the world’s only drive in volcano are located, are impassable and that the death toll could rise further.
Prime Minister Stephenson King had earlier said that an American visitor whose named was not disclosed, drowned on a north east coast beach while a 31 year-old woman died after her vehicle ran off the road and fell down a precipice.
King said he had taken an aerial survey of the storm damage and it is clear that there had been extensive damage.
“From the air, the southern town of Vieux Fort appeared to have received the brunt of Tomas’s fury and we will have to go into this area which was still blocked by landslides and virtually inaccessible to carry out a more detailed account of the damage,” he added.
Prime Minister King said that there were other persons missing from the town and that search and rescue teams were in the affected area.
“Soufriere is devastated, everyone is locked in and no one can leave or get in by road or by phone, so that there are persons who need help but cannot be reached,” the Prime Minister noted.
“It’s not just a question of clearing these roads because there are sections of the network that have completely disappeared so that we are just going to have to find another way in and out of the town,“ he said.
King said that a preliminary assessment of the damage caused by Tomas suggested that it was likely to cost the country in excess of US$100 million.
He said he had already contacted the United States government and Work Bank which had requested that measures be put in place to sources the emergency funding.
Since then, most of the island has been without water. The dam had some major damage done to it and the water is greatly contaminated. Cholera has had a minor outbreak so far; we have yet to experience anything like Haiti. It has been a learning process for me since this is my first hurricane. I have learned the following:
1. The government does not account for enough funding in their disaster relief plan.
2. You see the best and the worst in people during and after a natural disaster.
3. It is absolutely necessary when living on a tropical island to prepare a disaster kit ahead of time complete with candles, first aid, and clean water, water, water. You can never have enough water saved up.
4. Humor really helps during the clean up efforts. Some people have the amazing ability to get straight to work to clean up with no questions asked and a humorous attitude to provide to everyone.
5. Things can always be much worse than they are.