DIRTY WASH: A resident washes her wares in a drain in flood-torn St Lucia yesterday. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has ordered that relief supplies be sent to the Caribbean neighbour to bring relief to distressed citizens. See Pages 3, 4 & 24. —Photo courtesy Cameron Browne



La Brea residents criticise PM’s swift response to help St Lucia flood victims

By Susan Mohammed susan.mohammed@trinidadexpress.com

HOME should come first. 

This was the message yesterday from La Brea residents whose lives have been upended by the effects of the oil spills that have come on to beaches in the area and close to their homes.

The residents said they have taken note of the State’s rapid response to the flood disaster that has struck in St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines, and would like the same response to their appeal for help.

Residents said far more was being done by the State to give relief supplies to St Lucians, whereas Trinidadians were suffering financially, medically and socially from the spills which came ashore 12 days ago.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has called on the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) to ship supplies from its National Supplies Warehouse to St Lucia where five died from floods that came following torrential rain that began on Christmas Eve. Eight people have died in St Vincent.

The ODPM has also sent canned goods, infant formula, biscuits, water, blankets, mattresses as well as disaster, hygiene and first-aid kits to St Lucia. 

ODPM chief executive officer Dr Stephen Ramroop and Rear Admiral Richard Kelshall went to the island on Thursday to start the delivery of the relief items immediately. 

Of the efforts being made to help St Lucia, La Brea resident Tenesha Modeste said yesterday: “We are disappointed. Our Prime Minister did not respond as quickly as she did to those countries. We thought she could have responded to our situation better, as she did to those other. She did not make it look as we were as important.” 

Persad-Bissessar and several ministers visited La Brea last Friday, one week after the spill.

Modeste, a mother of one, said most of the children from the area had been complaining of asthma attacks, pains in their chests, nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting and the parents were taking them to seek medical attention every day. 

“We need a doctor on site to look after these children,” said Modeste. 

Residents said they were expected to stand the travel expense to take their children for medical care in Point Fortin.

Another resident, Virgil Wade-Gilbert, said: “This is disrespectful. They are treating the other Caribbean nations nice nice and we are like dogs in the back here. This situation is in your yard. Home comes first. You have to act like you care. This is a disaster right here.” 

Wade-Gilbert said residents in the area were suffering financially since the oil spill. “There are fishermen, people who sell food and other things and we have not been able to work. I cannot go to T&TEC and TSTT and tell them I cannot pay my bills because it had an oil spill in my area.” 

The relief effort in La Brea is being led by corporate communication officers with State-owned Petrotrin. The company has employed some residents of La Brea to help with the clean-up effort, while providing meals to residents living in a zone where the use of open flames is not permitted.

The La Brea Community Centre has been designated a temporary shelter for the approximately 100 residents directly affected by the spill. However, residents have chosen not to use the centre, and have instead asked that they be relocated to Housing Development Corporation (HDC) units.

The clean-up effort along the shoreline continued yesterday.

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