Friday, April 19, 2024

Terrible Tomas


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THE WORST STORM in living memory.
That’s how St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves yesterday described the passage of Hurricane Tomas.
In 2004, Barbados’ closest Caribbean neighbour was faced with Hurricane Ivan, which is best remembered there for its strong sea surges that caused immense damage to the coastline. Three years later, Hurricane Dean pounded the country, causing numerous landslides.
But when contacted yesterday, Gonsalves told the SUNDAY SUN that neither could compare to Tomas,  which though not nearly as strong, was the most sustained of the three systems.
Tomas, which arrived at St Vincent’s doorsteps around 2 p.m. Saturday as a Catergory 1, battered the country for most of the day with 75 mile per hour winds and torrential rains.
Relief was not expected before 10 o’clock last night, ending an eight-hour onslaught by the system which also flooded several villages.
“It is terrible, we are in a bad way,” said Gonsalves, who spoke to the SUNDAY SUN during the passage of the storm.
By then, he had received word from the National Emergency Management Office that more than 100 homes had been destroyed and that the north of the island was hardest hit.
“It’s a big hit. It is one which we can ill afford at any time but particularly at this (challenging economic) time,” said Gonsalves, explaining that Tomas had touched him at two levels.
At the national level, the Prime Minister said he was moved by “some real sad stories of people losing their homes”, while at the personal level, he was most concerned that the home of his 91-year-old mother was damaged by the storm.
“Part of the roof of the house in which she is at Connery has been raised up. She had to move out from her bedroom and go into another room downstairs but she is okay,” he said, while noting that sections of his official residence had also been impacted by water.
 Apart from infrastuctural damage, several communities were left severely waterlogged. Numerous food crops were also damaged and the country forced to operate without electricity for most of the day.
The Prime Minister, who had earlier addressed the nation at 6:45 a.m, was thankful that there were no reports of loss of life or serious injury but expects Tomas’ costs will be high.
“It is mad, this is an expensive one,” he said.
“Obviously, we don’t have a situation of Grenada in 1994. It is not an Ivan, I mean it is a Category 1 hurricane 75 miles, but 75 miles is a lot of wind and when they are sustained and accompanied by rain and they have gusts which should be higher and where houses are not as well constructed in some areas, you are going to have real difficulty,” he pointed out.
The Prime Minister, who rushed back home from a meeting in Barbados on Friday to chair a meeting of the National Emergency Council, said he was pleased with the country’s response, at very short notice, to the storm.

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