A Christmas Day trail of death and destruction caused by a powerful
weather system swept across the Eastern Caribbean islands of St Vincent
and the Grenadines, St Lucia and Dominica on Wednesday, leaving 18 dead
and several others missing up to press time. Heavy and prolonged
rainfall caused by a trough, with strong winds turning in a
counter-clockwise direction, resulted in devastating flooding which
damaged homes, collapsed bridges and triggered power outages in the
Damage in St Vincent.
which was just at the southern tip of the trough and on Wednesday
experienced similar weather in South and Central, was on full alert for
any disaster. But by early evening, meteorologist Gary Benjamin said
the bad weather appeared to have abated.
The Ministry of National
Security, the Met Office and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and
Management (ODPM) were closely monitoring the situation and all the
relevant agencies were on full alert, the Guardian was told. Benjamin
told the T & T Guardian while there was drizzle in Port-of-Spain, it
rained heavily in other parts of the country. He said visibility was at
times low at Piarco and there was widespread cloudiness.
T&T was just at the end of the rainy season and owing to heavy
rainfall over the last two weeks, the ground was waterlogged. Prolonged
rainfall could cause flash flooding in prone areas, he said.
Stephen Ramroop, CEO of the ODPM, said from as early as 4.45 am
Christmas morning, when he looked at the devastation in Dominica, he
began speaking with his counterparts in the Caribbean. Ramroop, a
director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA),
said things were in place in T&T in the event of any disaster here.
Security Minister Gary Griffith said all agencies were fully
operational but up to Wednesday there was nothing to indicate the
situation here would be as severe as in the other islands. Griffith said
his ministry was busy trying to reach the governments of the affected
countries yesterday to offer assistance. “We are offering our assistance
with security and to help co-ordinate support from other countries,” he
Gonsalves returns home
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who had gone to Rome, Italy to meet
Pope Francis and was spending Christmas in London, was forced to cut
short his visit and return home as the death toll on the island reached
seven yesterday. Gonsalves is expected to return today. According to
CANA reports, up to Wednesday emergency rescue teams said they had
recovered seven bodies, including those of a two-year-old baby boy and
his 18-year-old sister.
Three others were missing and feared dead
from the heavy flooding. In St Lucia three were reportedly killed and
eight in Dominica. St Vincent, Dominica and St Lucia were the hardest
hit countries. There were reports of widespread damage to roads,
buildings and bridges on the islands. Several people were trapped in
their homes and the ET Joshua Airport was closed because of flooding.
St Lucia tragedy
Lucia News Online on Wednesday reported that a police officer was
killed when a wall fell on him while he was trying to help people caught
in the floods. There were also unconfirmed reports of two other deaths.
In Dominica, officials said eight people died, including an 18-year-old
college student. One man was reported missing.
News reports said
torrential rains on Christmas Eve “turned the stretch of road from
Castle Comfort to Roseau into a nightmare of mud, dirty water, snarled
traffic, nervous pedestrians and flooded homes. Reports said Dominica
was crowded with holiday tourists.