St Vincent and the Grenadines declared a disaster zone

By Caribbean News Now contributor

KINGSTOWN, St Vincent — St Vincent and the Grenadines has been declared a level two disaster zone, following the heavy rainfall resulting from a low level trough system on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Level two disaster means that the government is managing locally with the restoration process, but will require external assistance.

The torrential rains caused severe flooding and landslides on mainland St Vincent that left 17 reported deaths and others still missing. The storm caused extensive damage to the infrastructure, including flooding of the only major hospital, the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, and damaging the E.T. Joshua Airport, as well as severe damage to roads and bridges around the islands.

According to Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who returned on Thursday night after cutting short a Christmas vacation in Europe, it will need “millions of dollars” to rebuild the country.

Gonsalves said the briefing he received on his return indicated “a disaster of a proportion the likes of which we have not seen in living memory”.

“Over the next few days, we will get a clearer picture as to the full extent,” he said.

He noted that getting to Kingstown from some areas of the country would be difficult because of the condition of the road network.

Meanwhile, employees at the St Vincent Electricity Services VINLEC are working to have electricity restored to residents who lost power.

Chief executive officer Thornley Myers said the restoration work in some areas has been hampered because of blocked roads.

Half of the country was still without water, and the supply was expected to be reconnected, progressively, by Tuesday.

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, as chair of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and lead prime minister on security in the region, spoke with Gonsalves on Friday about the situation in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Persad-Bissessar assured Gonsalves that Trinidad and Tobago is willing to assist St Vincent and the Grenadines with relief efforts and emergency supplies as necessary.

An assessment team comprising Dr Stephen Ramroop, chief executive officer of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management, and Rear Admiral Richard Kelshall, regional security coordinator in the Office of the Prime Minister, were due to travel to St Vincent on Friday to ascertain the needs of the islands.

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