Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves (C) talks with residents in the aftermath of the Christmas storms. Visiting Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minster Baldwin Spencer is at left. (IWN photo)
By Caribbean News Now contributor
KINGSTOWN, St Vincent -- Prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves has described as “horrific” the damage in parts of mainland St Vincent caused by flooding and landslides triggered by torrential rains on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
The government has declared a level two disaster, which means that the damage is extreme and local resources are being used to manage the situation but regional and international help will be required.
The disaster has been declared in four areas:
• The Vermont Valley extended to Buccament Bay
• Spring Village, Rose Bank and Dark View on the Leeward Side
• South Rivers
• O’Briens Valley Georgetown and Spring Village Georgetown
Eight people have been confirmed dead, with five still missing. Five persons were injured and 209 residents are homeless.
Critical infrastructure affected included the E. T. Joshua Airport, which was closed due to flooding, and Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH), where the paediatric ward was also flooded. The airport has since re-opened for flight operations.
The ministry of health has conducted an initial damage assessment at the MCMH and the estimated cost of damage to the facility is approximately EC$2 million. A number of records and essential pieces of equipment were damaged.
As of Saturday, several communities remained cut-off due to damaged bridges and blocked roads, including the North Windward community of Sandy Bay, and communities in North Leeward. The Caratal Bridge is damaged, and the Bailey by-pass bridge in Colonarie was washed away.
Preliminary assessments confirm that 20 houses were destroyed and 40 damaged but, as assessments continue, the estimated numbers are expected to increase. There is extensive damage to parts of the road network, and several bridges have collapsed, including one where there was reportedly no evidence that it contained reinforcing steel when it was standing.
Eight of the 11 water systems were simultaneously put out of commission over a period of three hours by the torrential rains and subsequent overtopping of as many as 30 major rivers island-wide, including those traversed by transmission mains from many sources.
In total, some 75% of the country’s water supply was disrupted in the space of a few hours.
Fifty percent of consumers were without pipe-borne water but Gonsalves said water will be restored to 85 per cent of consumers by Tuesday.
Preliminary estimated cost of full restoration and remedial measures to the affected systems could run to EC$20 million.
In the interim, water is being shipped to the Chateaubelair wharf so that the medical facilities and residents there can have access to water.
Water rationing has been implemented and 42 trucks are transporting water to various communities across the island but there have been challenges in meeting demand, Gonsalves said on Saturday.
The government has identified immediate needs to be housing/shelter, food, water, galvanized, blocks, plywood (construction), rafters and nails. It has also requested a hydrological assessment of the impacted areas.
The health sector is a priority area and needs include:
• Chateaubelair Hospital: Water tanks and water
• Buccament, Clare Valley and Retreat Health Clinics: Water tanks and water
• Georgetown Hospital: Water tanks and water
• Milton Cato Memorial Hospital:
o Autoclaves – Central sterilizing Unit
o CT Scan Machine
o Industrial washing machine and dryers
o Delivery beds, refrigerators, medication trolleys, incubators, oxygen plant air compressor, oxygen plant oxygen compressor.
o Reusable sheets, drapes and pillow cases.
o Disposable pillow cases and sheets o Mattress covers, paper sheets, toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls, adult disposable diapers, children’s disposable diapers.
o Disposable Operating Theatre Supplies
o Housekeeping cleaning supplies
o Hospital records supplies
A planning meeting took place on Saturday, which included members of the Cabinet; diplomats; senior government officials; prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda and chair of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), Baldwin Spencer; local and foreign contractors, utility companies, financial institutions, representatives of the governments of Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, and representatives of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).
See related article for details of relief efforts