State of emergency in St Lucia

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Video grab of homes in Fond St Jacques, St Lucia, partially buried in mud following Hurricane Tomas. HTS News

By Caribbean News Now Staff

CASTRIES, St Lucia — Prime Minister Stephenson King has declared a state of emergency as St Lucia struggles in the aftermath of what is said to be the worst natural disaster in the island’s history.

King said conservative estimates put the cost of the damage at EC$100 million (US$37 million). He said the government has already made an appeal for international aid and assistance.

According to local media reports, the prime minister has approached the French government in neighbouring Martinique for technical support in search and rescue operations.

HTS News reported that St Lucia’s capital, Castries, was under water as Hurricane Tomas battered the island with heavy rain in the early hours of Sunday morning. Meanwhile, in nearby communities there were reports of landslides, floods and house fires.

The Ravine Chabot area was ravaged by an avalanche of earth as the weight of two roadways that snake up the steep incline near the bottom of the hill came crashing down. Motor vehicles and utility poles were sandwiched amid the rubble that caved in on the road below. Low lying parts of the city centre were blanketed by water and mud.

Southeast of the city, the community of Faux-a-Chaux was also deluged with muck from overflowing rivers. Further south, Bananes Bay was festooned with trash, described by HTS News as a “stark reminder of the nation’s unflattering troubles with proper waste disposal.”

No community in Castries Basin was spared by Hurricane Tomas. Castries North, East South and Southeast were all devastated by the tropical system.

According to HTS News, the community of Fond St Jacques in the tourism town of Soufriere was left in complete ruins by Hurricane Tomas. A number of deaths were recorded and several people are still missing as the tropical system reduced the picturesque setting to a desolate location.

“I would say to you right now we have 12 confirmed dead… there are still people who are buried,” Tourism Minister Allan Chastanet said on local radio.

Vieux-Fort was also severely impacted by the hurricane, with roofs ripped from homes and utility poles downed.

All communication with the south of the island was cut off for a lengthy period and, according to the latest reports, the communities there are without water and power and are running low on supplies.

Hurricane Tomas has triggered an estimated $3.2 million hurricane coverage insurance payout to St Lucia, the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) said in a statement.

According to a joint statement by the St Lucia Tourist Board and Hotel & Tourism Association, damage to the hotel plant was limited mainly to loss of landscaping and flooding to accommodations, although a few hotels have reported some structural damage.

It is estimated that the country and its vital tourism industry will be back to normalcy by Friday, November 12, at which time the island will be in a position to welcome all visitors.

Every effort is being made to ensure the smooth departure of visitors who wish to leave by facilitating additional airlift at both airports as well as transfers between the airports. Visitors wishing to remain on island will continue to be taken care of.

Cruise ships will resume calls to the island on November 7.

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