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Disaster a setback says Anthony
CASTRIES, St Lucia—Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony says the damage unleashed by a low-level trough over the Christmas holidays has been extensive and severe, resulting in a further setback for the country. "The road ahead will be difficult and hard especially in the face of the economic challenges facing our country,” Prime Minister Anthony told a news conference yesterday.
“But we have handled this disaster magnificently, largely on our own efforts with few resources. We have worked together, mourned together and supported each other. It is that kind of spirit we must invoke to face the future,” he added. Anthony told reporters that many people had lost all of their belongings to the floodwaters that have also been blamed for the deaths of six people.
"We now know that some ten homes were completely destroyed by the raging floods. Several vehicles were damaged by flooding, some beyond repair," Prime Minister Anthony said, adding that agriculture had suffered badly, with initial estimates pointing to a 30 to 40 per cent damage to banana fields, 90 per cent to vegetables and five per cent damage to tree crops.
Additionally, 90 per cent of all ponds suffered varying degrees of siltation, Anthony said, adding that his administration had set itself five priorities in the aftermath of the damage caused by the weather system. He said, firstly, the government would provide care, support and assistance to those who were affected by the flood waters.
"We were anxious to secure the re-opening of our airports to ensure the movement of passengers to and from St Lucia and assure our source tourism markets that we were open for business and that their holidays would not be compromised." Anthony also said the government was urging the public utilities companies to restore services as quickly as possible, in addition to vehicular traffic around the island.
"The Government of St Lucia is pleased to report that we met all of our objectives in this short term,” he told reporters as he also praised Caribbean countries and other friendly countries for coming to the assistance of the island. He added: "We often describe the Caribbean as a family. There was no better illustration of this than the support which we received from our neighbours. Nearly every head of government contacted me to express condolences and to offer support and assistance to our island.
"While others wanted estimates, our Caribbean family came to our support immediately, without being prompted,” he said, noting that without asking, the Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration in T&T had been the first to respond to the plight of St Lucia. He said the St Kitts-Nevis Government had made an EC$1 million donation to the island and the Government of Barbados had offered water and any other assistance St Lucia would require.
“Later this week, we are expecting supplies by boat from the Governments of Suriname and Guyana. On Sunday, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda and current chairman of the OECS Authority, Baldwin Spencer, visited St Lucia to see the damage for himself." Anthony said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had expressed “feelings of brotherhood and solidarity and reiterated a commitment to us and indeed the peoples of the Caribbean in these difficult times.”
He said Caracas had pledged “its unwavering support” in caring for the victims and the “reconstruction of the affected infrastructure. “Within 24 hours the island was motorable, albeit imperfectly in some cases. The work done by the Ministry of Infrastructure, Port Services and Transport was outstanding," Anthony told reporters, adding that he was reserving his greatest thanks to the people of St Lucia whom he said were determined, patient, co-operative, disciplined, and sometimes stoic.
"I thank those who gave their equipment freely to remove debris and to repair damaged roads to enable the safe passage of vehicles. I remember a visit to Canaries and the young people whom I met, armed with spades, buckets and brooms as they cleaned their community.
"The people of Bexon had every reason to be disappointed, frustrated and even angry after another flood but they were calm, co-operative and grateful as they commenced the task to clean their community,” he said, thanking also the corporate community for its assistance and singled out Buckeye, the company that recently bought out the US-owned HESS Terminal here.
"Although still unknown, because they have only recently arrived in our midst, they have donated EC$66,391.18 in supplies to aid our recovery efforts, all purchased locally. We thank them immeasurably,” Anthony said, adding that the government is yet to determine the nature of support that would be given to those who lost all their belongings. However, he assured children and their parents that school books would be replaced and grants be given to purchase lost school uniforms.
He said that would be done to coincide with the reopening of schools. “The weeks and months ahead will be critical, as we move to restore normalcy to the island. I urge all to continue in the spirit of love and unity that prevailed immediately after the passage of the trough. While many of our possessions were washed away in the floods, our spirit as a caring and resilient society remains," he said.
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