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TT aid for St Lucia

By JULIEN NEAVES and Rachael Espinet Friday, December 27 2013

click on pic to zoom in
Off to St Lucia: ODPM head Dr Stephen Ramroop, left, and Minister of National Security Gary Griffith supervise as workers and soldiers pack a containe...
Off to St Lucia: ODPM head Dr Stephen Ramroop, left, and Minister of National Security Gary Griffith supervise as workers and soldiers pack a containe...

TWO 40-foot containers of emergency supplies including water, mattresses and blankets from Trinidad are expected to arrive today in St Lucia, one of three Eastern Caribbean nations rocked by torrential rains, flooding and landslides on Christmas Eve.

The torrential rainfall was associated with a trough system over the Windward Islands on Tuesday that resulted in multiple deaths — eight in St Vincent and six in St Lucia — as landslides and flooding crippled essential infrastructure in those countries.

Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) CEO Dr Stephen Ramroop contacted Deputy Prime Minister of St Lucia, Philip J Pierre, and received a list of items that were urgently required by the Government and citizens. The items requested were: canned goods, biscuits, infant formula, water, mattresses, blankets, hygiene kits, disaster kits, and first aid kits.

Yesterday, Ramroop and National Security Minister Gary Griffith inspected the containers at the ODPM warehouse on Tumpuna Road, Arima. The two containers are part of five pre-positioned and pre-packed 40 feet containers for immediate mobilisation.

The ODPM in a release yesterday noted that with the assistance of the Supermarkets Association, water manufacturers and other key suppliers of emergency goods and services, it “is mobilising the necessary stuff to be sent to St Lucia in the shortest possible time”.

Griffith, speaking to Newsday, said the containers were to be placed on a leased vessel that was expected to depart at midnight. The vessel would be manned by members of the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard. A shipment of bottled water was airlifted earlier yesterday to St Lucia.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar had requested that the ODPM mobilise foodstuff and emergency supplies to be sent to St Lucia. Persad-Bissessar is chairman of CARICOM and lead Prime Minister on security in the region. A release from the Office of the Prime Minister on Christmas Day (Wednesday) stated this country was ready to assist the affected islands of St Vincent, St Lucia, and Dominica.

At about 9 am yesterday Pradeep Subrian, general manager for Blue Waters was contacted by the ODPM and asked if they could supply water relief.

“Because the water was being air-lifted, we donated 500 cases of water. We coordinated it with the ODPM and the cases went straight to the air guard,” Subrian said,

The 500 cases of Blue Waters were airlifted yesterday at 1 pm to St Lucia. The Air Guard took the emergency water supplies, and Rear Admiral Richard Kelshall was on board accompanying the water.

Subrian said Blue Waters was currently coordinating with the ODPM to fill 20 containers with water to be shipped to St Lucia. Each container can hold approximately 1,500 cases of water.

Subrian said Blue Waters was also trying to find a freight company that can transport the 30,000 cases of water to St Lucia as soon as possible.

Blue Waters has a distribution branch in St Lucia and Subrian said yesterday all Blue Waters workers on the island went out to give water to those in need.

Vernon Persad, president of the Supermarkets Association, said he was contacted by the ODPM and worked swiftly with supermarkets in north Trinidad to get supplies for St Lucia.

“The Supermarket Association is one of the groups that is part of the disaster response teams. Because of our geography we are able to provide aid,” Persad said.

Persad said he was given a list of items from Ramroop to provide for St Lucia. The members of the association closest to the National Warehouse on Tumpuna Road were asked to donate relief items. Super Quality supermarket in Trincity was one of the stores which donated items.

Newsday contacted Health Minister, Dr Fuad Khan, to find out if there are plans in place for medical aid to St Lucia. Khan said he was not asked to send medical relief, but if he is asked, he will provide them.

Yesterday, the Meteorological Office of Trinidad and Tobago (Met Office) said St Lucia was experiencing some light rainfall, but nothing as heavy as Christmas Day and Christmas Eve – which caused the damage.

“They are experiencing some light rain. They will get a few more light showers, but it will improve,” said Akile Nancoo, the on duty meteorologist at the Met Office.

The National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) in St Lucia yesterday said the trough system resulted in 171.1 mm of rainfall within a 24 hour period ending at 8.50 am on Wednesday.

Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, wife of St Lucian Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony, told Newsday yesterday that things were “settling down”. She reported that airports were up and running again, and utilities had been restored to most areas.

“We seem to be slowly getting back to normal,” she added.

She said the biggest issue was infrastructural damage to roads and bridges and there will be a high cost to repair them . She noted some roads remained blocked but they were able to install some temporary bridges. However, the Canaries Road to Soufriere, a major thoroughfare leading to the famous Pitons, was still out.

She said the major damage was in the South and West of the country and though the capital of Castries experienced heavy flooding the infrastructure remained intact.

At the citizen level she noted many people “lost everything in their house”. Antoine’s own home, located on top of a hill, suffered flooding and she reported that water rose to five feet. She said yesterday that her house “was fine”. With six people dead she noted that citizens were happy for their lives. Among the dead is police constable Calvin Louis who was killed after a wall fell on him as he was trying to help people caught in the floods in the town of Vieux Fort.

The Government of St Lucia has appealed to citizens to make in-kind donations to assist those negatively impacted. NEMO also reported shelters remained open in the areas of Anse-La-Ray, Castries and Vieux Fort.

In St Vincent, eight people died from landslide and flooding; five of them were from one family who perished in a landslide in the town of Rose Bank on the west coast. Another person died in Byera and two others perished in Vermont. Five people were missing and the same number reported injured.

Sixty-two Vincentians were left homeless due to flooding. Nine houses were reportedly destroyed and 15 damaged. Several communities were cut off due to damaged roads and bridges. A police inspector from St Vincent told Newsday yesterday that citizens “are in a state of shock”.

On the NEMO St Vincent Facebook page it was declared as a “level two” disaster or major disaster. Disaster areas were declared for a number of areas: Vermont Valley all the way down to Buccament Bay; Spring Village, Rose Bank and Dark View on the Leeward Side; South Rivers; O’Briens Valley, and Spring Village-Georgetown.

Unable to personally contact the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who was scheduled to arrive in St Vincent yesterday after cutting short his Christmas vacation in London, Griffith contacted the Office of the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines and they were scheduled to get back to him with a needs assessment.

Questioned whether this country will assist Dominica, which was also affected by the severe weather, Griffith responded that the country “seems pretty okay” following the torrential rains in comparison to request for supplies.

“We look forward and continue to adhere to our obligation to our Caribbean neighbours,” he said.

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