UPROOTED: A pedestrian walks past an uprooted tree in St Lucia yesterday, after Hurricane Tomas wreaked havoc on the island.

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Vital banana crop wiped out

Terrible Tomas hammers St Vincent

By Joel Julien joel.julien@trinidadexpress.com

NOT a single banana tree was left standing in the northern part of St Vincent and the Grenadines after the country was hit by Hurricane Tomas, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said yesterday.

Banana production employs more than 60 per cent of the workforce on the island and accounts for more than 50 per cent of the country's merchandise exports, according to official statistics.

"Agriculture is gone completely. Not a banana tree is standing in the north of the country now. Our farmers have been adversely affected," Gonsalves said in a telephone interview with the Express.

When Gonsalves was contacted yesterday, Hurricane Tomas had already passed. He said assessments were being done to determine the extent of damage around the islands.

"I have not gotten all the figures as yet, but so far I have been told that some 500 houses were seriously damaged. Roads were severely damaged and small bridges were blown away, leaving hundreds of citizens stranded. Seven schools were damaged and there was a lot of damage at the coast. There will be need for real serious work to rebuild," Gonsalves said.

"We need to have agriculture replanted and we need support for our farmers. It was a big hit but we are a resolute people."

Gonsalves said, in the midst of the destruction caused by Tomas, he was happy no lives were lost.

"I am happy to report that no lives were lost. However, we have two workmen who are hospitalised after they were blown off a roof," he said.

News reports stated that Hurricane Tomas weakened slightly yesterday after tearing off roofs and downing power lines in the eastern Caribbean.

Apart from St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia and Martinique were also hit by Tomas, which struck Barbados on Friday as a tropical storm.

Forecasters said yesterday Tomas could gain force and veer towards earthquake-stricken Haiti, where some 1.3 million people under tarpaulins and tents are vulnerable to heavy rains and wind. (See Page 29)

iForecasts said the Atlantic season's 12th hurricane could drop up to six inches (15 centimetres) of rain in the region. Rain was still drenching the eastern Caribbean islands yesterday.

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