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Country in crisis

By By Joel Julien joel.julien@trinidadexpress.com

St Lucia Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony has described the damage inflicted on his country due to extreme weather as a “humanitarian crisis”.

“What we have is a humanitarian crisis, people have lost all of their belongings and basically they are very poor people, persons without means, already reeling from very serious economic problems because of the economic crisis that we have to contend with. Many homes have individuals who are not employed, so this is really a double blow for them,” Anthony said.

He made the statements on Friday night to journalists from Trinidad and Tobago who were on board a Caribbean Airlines flight that delivered supplies to St Lucia.

“The situation here was distressing, to say the least. In some instances, water reached a height of about six to eight feet and persons had to abandon their houses, without any warnings, very quickly,” Anthony said.

“They suddenly saw the first signs of water, and within half an hour the water had reached six, seven, eight feet.”

Anthony was marooned in his home for a while due to the heavy rains. “I live in an area close to the city on a hill and I was marooned for quite a while. I could not leave my property because I was closely surrounded by water, but there were several communities that were particularly hard hit,” he said.

One of the areas hardest hit was a community named Bexon that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar visited in 2010 following Hurricane Thomas.

“First were communities in the east, an area known as Bexon. Your Prime Minister is very familiar with that area because following Hurricane Thomas she visited and walked in that area, so she is very familiar, so you need to tell her when you go back to Trinidad and Tobago that the very same area she had the opportunity to walk and meet residents, that area was also very badly flooded,” Anthony said.

Anthony’s own constituency, Vieux Fort South, was also hit hard.

He thanked the Government and the people of Trinidad and Tobago for responding to the “humanitarian crisis”. This country was the first to send supplies.

The supplies on board the plane included mattresses, canned goods and water.

“They have lost everything, they have lost furniture, appliances, clothing, beds, everything; and most people had to spend the night in shelters. Many of them have not been able to return to their homes because their homes are now filled with mud and debris and so it is going to take some time before they are able to clean the houses and return to their homes, but they will be returning to empty homes, and that is why the gesture of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago is so very important,” Anthony said.

“By providing us with those beds many persons will have the opportunity to sleep on a bed once again, so I want to re-emphasise how timely the gift of support has been from Trinidad and Tobago.”

Anthony said the speed of this country’s response has been “remarkable”.

“I think from (Thursday) we have started to receive supplies from Trini­dad and Tobago and I want to tell you that we are very deeply appreciative and we are particularly happy that the response has been so extraordinary and so very prompt,” he said.

“The people of St Lucia will forever remain thankful for it,” he said.

 Anthony said the water intakes on the island were compromised by landslides and the water provided by Trinidad and Tobago would help.

“This is a powerful lesson to other countries that while you are preoccupied with getting facts and information, they are not really responding to the humanitarian crisis,” he said.

Anthony described some of the deaths in St Lucia as a result of the heavy rains as “bizarre”.

Anthony said after a police officer had rescued four people from rising water he was killed.

“He had helped to rescue about four persons with the rising waters and he was leaning against a wall. Water slammed him against the wall, dislocated the wall, the wall fell on him and he died,” Anthony said.

“Here was someone who had just assisted four persons to safety. That is the kind of freak incidents that occurred.”

Anthony also spoke about two brothers who were killed.

“Two gentlemen, for example, were travelling along this highway, fell into a huge precipice where a major culvert had been washed away, about 150 feet. One of the gentlemen had his daughter with him. Both of them died, the father and the uncle, but the daughter was found on a stone next to the site,” he said.

Anthony said the 11-year-old survivor was “very traumatised”.


• Express reporter Joel Julien and photographic editor Robert Taylor

travelled to St Lucia on Friday

on the Caribbean Airlines flight

taking relief supplies to the island.

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