Christmas storm death toll rises

By Caribbean News Now contributor

KINGSTOWN, St Vincent — The confirmed death toll following severe rains and high winds generated by an unseasonal low level trough system that 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 has now risen to 22.

The numbers of fatalities is expected to increase following reports of residents that are still unaccounted for.

In St Vincent and the Grenadines, 17 people are reported dead as homes were destroyed and flooded, with residents being literally swept away by the dangerous floods. Rivers rose to dangerous levels and roads were blocked in many places, with downed trees and mud slides. Many bridges and roads are impassable.

Power and water are unavailable for many and the Milton Cato Hospital, the only major hospital in the country, was flooded.

In neighbouring Saint Lucia, the death toll now stands at five. Much of the southern and western sections of the island were left without water, electricity and telecommunications service.

According to St Lucia Electricity Services Limited (LUCELEC) crews were working in areas that remained without power. Most of these areas are in the south of the island and include Daban, La Maze and Au Park which are all supplied from the Saltibus Line (Choiseul), Vivancelle (a small area in Belle Vue, Vieux Fort), Valier (a small area in Banse, Laborie) and Roblot (Choiseul).

LUCELEC’s transmission and distribution manager Gilroy Pultie said all these areas should be re-energised by the end of Thursday.

Restoration of Hope Estate in Choiseul, which suffered extensive damage, continued to be a challenge due to difficulties with access. Similarly, access is hampering the restoration of Venus Road, the only area in the north that remains without power.

Pultie said that, once LUCELEC crews can gain access to these two areas, the restoration work there should be completed fairly quickly.

The George Charles Airport was reopened from 9:00 am on Wednesday and operations are back to usual levels. However, Hewanorra International Airport was more extensively affected by the weather, which caused a significant amount of debris to settle on the runway and flooding in the terminal building.

Airport crews were working to accommodate safe landing of aircraft and passenger facilitation as of 3:00 pm Thursday.

In Dominica, rockfalls and landslides occurred in the Roseau Valley area and flash flooding caused the temporary blockage of some roads. Roads leading to and from southern villages were blocked by debris and landslides.

Electricity service was interrupted and intermittent through several parts of the island.

Meanwhile, the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad Bissessar, has requested that the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) mobilize foodstuff and emergency supplies to be sent to St Lucia.

The ODPM has items in its national warehouse as well as five pre-positioned and pre-packed 40-ft containers. Items necessary for immediate mobilization have been placed in these containers and warehouses. With the assistance of the Supermarkets Association, water manufacturers and other key suppliers of emergency goods and services, the ODPM is mobilizing the necessary stuff to be sent to Saint Lucia in the shortest possible time.

The CEO of ODPM, Dr Stephen Ramroop has contacted the deputy prime minister of Saint Lucia, Philip J Pierre, and received a list of items that were urgently required by the government and people of Saint Lucia.

The following were among the items requested:

Canned goods
Infant formula
Hygiene kits
Disaster kits
First aid kits

The ODPM has commenced packing two 40-ft containers and was expected to be ready to ship to Saint Lucia by 1:00 pm Thursday.

According to the Trinidad and Tobago government, no requests had yet come from the other affected islands.

The secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, expressed his deep sorrow over the loss of life and severe damage.

Commenting on the situation, Insulza stated, “This is very bad news, even more that it has occurred on Christmas Day. The unseasonable nature of the heavy rains and flooding raises once again the impact of climate change in the Caribbean region.”

The secretary general added that he would convene other agencies within the Inter-American system to mobilize a hemispheric response.

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:

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