By Caribbean News Now contributor
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — Severe rains and high winds generated by an unseasonal low level trough system impacted the Eastern Caribbean islands of Dominica, Saint Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines over a 24-hour period from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day, leaving eight dead and four missing in St Vincent, five so far unconfirmed deaths in Saint Lucia and one person missing in Dominica.
According to a synopsis by the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), a small low level trough moved into the Eastern Caribbean under the influence of a mid to upper level trough. The orientation of the eastern side of the upper level trough significantly enhanced showers and thunderstorm activity over the Eastern Caribbean.
Early in the afternoon of December 24, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines began reporting heavy shower activity. Overnight, the rainfall accumulations approached 6 inches in Saint Lucia, 6 inches in Grenada, and 4 inches in St Vincent.
Impacted countries have reported severe damage due to high winds, torrential rains and overflowing rivers. According to the Barbados Meteorological Service, rainfall from the system, which continued Christmas Day, was expected to decrease on Thursday, as the upper-level trough shifts to the north, and the low-level tough moves west. Cloudy conditions were expected to linger with isolated showers affecting the east coast of the island chain. These conditions were expected to clear and become breezy during the course of Thursday.
National assessment teams were deployed on Wednesday morning to assess the impacts.
St Vincent and the Grenadines
• Several rivers overflowed their banks in Chateaubelair, Buccament, Vermont, O’Briens Valley, Clare Valley and South Rivers.
• Major areas affected are Buccament Bay, Vermont, South Rivers, Byera, Spring Village, Rose Bank, and the capital Kingstown.
• Eight persons are confirmed dead as a result of landslides and flooding. Five persons from one family in Rose Bank died from landslides, one in Byera and two in Vermont.
• Four persons are missing in the Buccament area.
• One emergency shelter has been activated – Buccament Bay Secondary School housing 13 families – 27 persons in shelter.
Critical Facilities and Infrastructure
• Critical infrastructure affected includes the E. T. Joshua Airport and Milton Cato Memorial Hospital where the Paediatric Ward was flooded. Clean up operations are continuing at the E. T. Joshua Airport and eas scheduled to re-open at 3pm on Wednesday.
• The Building Roads and General Services Authority (BRAGSA) and the Ministry of Transport and Works have reported severe flooding, blocked roads and damage to homes, roads and bridges as well as other infrastructure. They are continuing their assessments and clean up operations.
• Fifty percent of consumers are without pipe-borne water as heavy rains have impacted the network.
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves was holidaying in Europe but was expected to return to St Vincent on Thursday.
The Office of Disaster Management reports that the southern part of the island from Scotshead to Laudat and Canefield was affected by heavy rains and flash flooding resulting in a number of roads intercepted and homes affected. In particular the communities of Shawford/Fond Cani, Gutter, Bathe Estate, Newtown, Castle Comfort, Loubiere, Citronaire, Point Michel, and Soufriere were affected.
Families in the communities of Newtown, Loubiere, Citronaire, Castle Comfort and Bath Estate were affected by flash flooding.
Shelters at Bath Estate remain on alert. Four families in the area were asked to evacuate their homes however residents remained near the area monitoring the river and returned to their homes once the rain had subsided.
Critical Facilities and Infrastructure
• The areas worst affected are in the southern Districts.
• The preliminary assessments indicate a total of 33 landslides or mudslides were recorded.
• Rockfall/landslides occurred in the Roseau Valley area (Laudat, Shawford, Fond Cani) and flash flooding caused the temporary blockage of the Newtown main road and the Bath-Estate/Elmshall Bridge. Roads are being restored (even if only partially). The roads leading to and from the southern villages of Scotts Head and Soufierre were blocked by debris and landslides and are in the process of being cleared.
• Numerous fallen rocks and trees impeded traffic throughout the day and crews have worked to clear most of these. The Newtown road is now open for vehicular traffic.
• Electricity service was interrupted and intermittent through several parts of the island throughout the day. While the electricity has been restored to most parts of the island, Bagatel, Fond St Jean, Soufriere continue to experience some electrical disruptions with staff from DOMLEC taking remedial action.
• Water services were affected by land slippage and intake siltage and a number of communities, including Morne Prosper, Grandfond and Laplaine, were experiencing shortages.
• The Ministry of Public Works, Energy and Ports (MPWEP) has engaged the services of private contractors/equipment owners to commence immediate clearing operations without compromising the safety of workmen.
• The services of a number of heavy equipment operators have been engaged to undertake emergency clearing works.
• Most of roads are passable by vehicular traffic and final clearing works, i.e. clearing of drains and other related works are on-going.
• Efforts have been made to allow the passage of both vehicular and pedestrian traffic in most of these areas with the view to completing the cleanup operation shortly. However, initial observations suggest that significant resources will be required to restore and rehabilitate failed embankments, road carriageways and drainage structures.
The immediate requirements for the affected families are for food and clothing, particularly in the Newtown area, as well as water storage and portable water treatment distribution plants and mobile flood lighting.
The Saint Lucia Meteorological Services reported that 6 inches of rain was recorded within the 24 hours ended at 8:50 am on December 25.
• Landslides were reported in Dennery to the south
• The entire village of Anse- La Raye was flooded.
Critical Facilities and Infrastructure:
• Assessments reveal that the Canaries Bridge was damaged
• VHF communication between the north and south of the country was hampered due to interference from neighboring radio stations.
The NEOC has been activated and electricity has already been restored to the Bisee area. Additional government vehicles have been assigned to NEMO to support response efforts. School assessments are underway, while monitoring and discussions continue between the Met Office and the NEMO Secretariat.
According to the government of Saint Lucia, forecasters could not predict this weather event as the Meteorological Services equipment had been compromised. Additionally, radar equipment located in Martinique, on which Saint Lucia’s Met Services depends for weather forecasting, was down, resulting in severely hampered ability to analyse and predict the weather event.
Reports coming from disaster committees located in the towns and villages of Saint Lucia indicate the following:
Widespread and severe flooding in Central Castries, Bexon, Anse-La-Raye, Micoud, Vieux Fort, Dennery, Soufriere and other locales. Flooding has resulted in loss of personal property and business inventory.
Reports indicate Anse-La-Raye and Bexon were hardest hit by flooding.
The Canaries bridge has been confirmed damaged and impassable. The Piaye bridge was also confirmed impassable.
Several unconfirmed reports of loss of life attributable to the weather event have been received by NEMO. Most of the reports indicate individuals attempting to cross swollen rivers or flooded roads and other areas.
Deaths reported but currently unconfirmed:
1. One unidentified male police officer from Vieux Fort while on duty – a wall may have collapsed on him.
2. One unidentified male from Micoud. The body is at the Micoud Police Station.
3. NEMO has also been informed of three members of a family from Micoud who were caught in rising water while in their vehicle. In that situation two (2) adult males are unconfirmed dead; 1 female child (age unknown) is currently hospitalized.
4. Another unconfirmed report informs of a death by electrocution in Dennery.
LUCELEC has estimated approximately 15% of its customer base is without power. The company currently has several crews working in the field at the moment responding to “no power” calls in areas they can access, while other personnel are trying to determine how best to respond in difficult to reach areas.
USAID and CDEMA representatives on island have reported into EOC to act as liaison between NEMO and their organisations, to provide technical/advisory and later financial support where necessary.
NEMO urged all residents to remain indoors as sightseeing is NOT recommended in the circumstances. Emergency response personnel are already under pressure and should not be responding to self-created emergencies at this time.
Most of the water supply systems have been affected, resulting in a water shortage in many areas around the island.
The Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) is in contact with the affected/threatened states and is ready to provide assistance as required. CIMH) continues to provide technical analysis to support scenario planning.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said Trinidad and Tobago is ready to assist if assistance is requested from the affected islands of St Vincent, St Lucia, and Dominica.
People living in Britain, who wish to help families in Saint Lucia in the aftermath of the Christmas storm, should contact Dr Ernest Hilaire High Commissioner of Saint Lucia, 1 Collingham Gardens, Earls Court, London SW5 0HW, England, Tel: 011 (44207) 370 7123 Fax: 011 (44207) 7370 1905 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org