Evacuation of storm-battered communities underway in St Lucia



Video grab of a debris-strewn roadway in Fond St Jacques, St Lucia. HTS News

By Caribbean News Now Staff

CASTRIES, St Lucia — The government of St Lucia has ordered the evacuation of hurricane-torn Fond St Jacques in the heart of Soufriere. The tourism town was the hardest hit community with several deaths recorded in the picturesque home of the world famous Pitons.

Fond St Jacques, considered the food basket of St Lucia, has been left in ruins and due to the unstable condition of the landscape, engineers have advised residents to leave immediately, local media reported.

According to HTS News, roads that were once impassable have been partially re-opened for emergency purposes only.

The authorities have also cautioned members of the public to stay off the roads to facilitate the work of emergency response crews and disaster relief agencies.

French authorities and the British military are also assisting in airlifting aid and other supplies to disaster zones such as Soufriere.

Veteran newsman Pete Ninvalle said the scale of destruction was unimaginable, especially in Fond St Jacques where lives were lost.

The seasoned reporter, who has covered many a catastrophe, said nothing he had witnessed is comparable to his Hurricane Tomas experience in Soufriere.

Hurricane Tomas left a trail of death and destruction in St Lucia with 14 confirmed dead and several others missing from houses and cars that went down with landslides, which occurred all over the island.

One of the visitors to the island died when his vehicle was washed away and a 31-year old woman drowned while she was in her vehicle. A mother and her two daughters were found in the mud and debris, while a well-known businessman and his family are reported to have perished as an avalanche from a mudslide took their home down to a nearby river.

The agricultural industry in the country is the worst hit with the banana industry totally wiped out and the flattening of fruit trees.

Communities all over the island are severely damaged, with many areas unable to be reached as the road networks have been severely damaged and bridges impassible in some areas. In some of the worst affected communities of the south, people are wandering the streets, desperate for food and water, while some are reported as butchering drowned cows, despite warnings from the National Emergency Office.

Hundreds of houses in this small country have been destroyed and some of the displaced people have taken refuge in shelters and in the homes of family members whose homes remain standing.

Communication remains a major challenge, especially in the areas worst affected, although some phone lines have been functional, including internet access in limited areas.

Minister of Communications and Works, Guy Joseph, said it will be weeks until some roads in the south and west of the island will be passable. This situation leaves thousands of residents stranded and pregnant women in need of medical attention.

The government of St Lucia has not given an official estimate of the damage but initial estimates indicate that the extent of the damage will be well over a hundred million dollars.

Several schools have been severely damaged with lost roofs and major structural damage and the entire roof of the hospital in the community of Dennery took flight in the midst of the hurricane. Patients at the hospital are reported to have been carried to places of safety.

Unfortunately looting is also reported to be taking place in some parts of the island.

Prime Minister Stephenson King has said that St Lucia is currently in need of regional and international help as the island struggles to deal with the havoc wrought by the strong winds and rain from Hurricane Tomas.

The hurricane came like a thief in the night as islanders were expecting a simple tropical depression which rapidly developed into a hurricane, leaving many unprepared, including stranded tourists.



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