Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Tomas blamed for 12 deaths


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CASTRIES, St Lucia – At least 12 people were confirmed dead and several communities across the St. Lucia remained cut off Monday following widespread destruction caused by Hurricane Tomas over the weekend.
Government said that the damage caused by the storm could surpass US$100 million.
The southern town of Vieux-Fort was among the worst hit by the Category One storm, while five bodies including those of the owners of a popular craft shop in Soufriere, recovered from the wreckage of their homes that were hit by landslides.
 “I would say to you right now we have 12 confirmed dead…unfortunately there are still people who are buried….,” Tourism Minister Allan Chastanet said on local radio.
He said that the roads to the town, where the famous Piton Mountains and the world’s only drive in volcano are located, are impassable and that the death toll could rise further.
Prime Minister Stephenson King had earlier said that an American visitor whose named was not disclosed, drowned on a north east coast beach while a 31 year-old woman died after her vehicle ran off the road and fell down a  precipice.
King said he had taken an aerial survey of the storm damage and it is clear that there had been extensive damage.
“From the air, the southern town of Vieux Fort appeared to have received the brunt of Tomas’s fury and we will have to go into this area which was still blocked by landslides and virtually inaccessible to carry out a more detailed account of the damage,” he added.
Prime Minister King said that there were other persons missing from the town and that search and rescue teams were in the affected area.
“Soufriere is devastated, everyone is locked in and no one can leave or get in by road or by phone, so that there are persons who need help but cannot be reached,” the Prime Minister noted.
 “It’s not just a question of clearing these roads because there are sections of the network that have completely disappeared so that we are just going to have to find another way in and out of the town,“ he said. 
King said that a preliminary assessment of the damage caused by Tomas suggested that it was likely to cost the country in excess of US$100 million. 
He said he had already contacted the United States government and Work Bank which had requested that measures be put in place to sources the emergency funding.
Minister for Communications Guy Joseph speaking on radio, told listeners the damage is “worse than we could think of”.
The government said that the hurricane had wiped out the entire banana industry and that the roofs of at least one hospital, schools, and a sports stadium had been blown off.
Business places remained closed on Monday and the authorities said that schools would remain closed for the duration of the week.
Meanwhile, the St. Lucia Air and Sea Port Monday announced the reopening of the George Charles Airport in the capital in a bid to relieve the suffering of a number of stranded passengers.
However, the Hewanorra International Airport in the south remains closed.


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