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Crisis in the Caribbean as the Year Ends

Sunday, December 29, 2013
Residents of Castries, St Lucia, work together to clean up their area which was badly affected by flooding on Christmas Day. PHOTO COURTESY BILL MORTELY

Mysterious oil spills over the past 12 days have left the residents along T&T’s southern coastline in a state of upheaval. Nine oil spills in the first ten days left residents battling heavy slicks, noxious smells and tiring clean-up operations even while the source of the spills has not been determined.



But while the residents, members of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union, the state-owned Petrotrin and the US-based Oil Spill Response Ltd have pitched in to assist with the local clean-up, neighbouring islands are still reeling from the massive deluge on Christmas day that left 18 dead, several missing and millions of dollars in damages in St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica.


Two containers packed with emergency supplies arrived in St Lucia late Friday night, and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said then that it was the only island to request assistance to deal with the level of damage sustained after the Christmas day storm. But yesterday, the Office of Disaster Preparedness (ODPM) confirmed that St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) also applied for assistance to restore the affected areas. 


Head of the ODPM Dr Stephen Ramroop yesterday said five containers would be packed and shipped to SVG by Tuesday. Those will contain emergency supplies and  hardware items to help with the rebuilding exercises on the island. “They are doing a comprehensive needs assessment, which we are waiting for. The ODPM will also issue a press release of the items that they need in case residents want to contribute to the containers or add to our reserves,” Ramroop said.



The Sunday Guardian called Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves but was told that he was in emergency meetings and was then expected to tour the western side of the island to better ascertain the damage. But of the three islands hit, Dominica seemed to be the least affected. According to the Dominican-based Associated Press correspondent Carlisle Jno Baptiste, the island was almost back to pre-storm conditions. “It was a miracle that there were no fatalities,” he said in a telephone interview.


“The Government has promised to replace 100 per cent of the lost school books and cover 60 per cent of the rent for those who are now homeless,” Baptiste said, adding that 18 people were left homeless after the storm. He said the island estimated its damage at EC$45 million, most of which includes damage to road and infrastructure.


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