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St. Lucia declares state of emergency after passage of Hurricane Tomas

Published:Tuesday | November 2, 2010 | 2:22 PM

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, CMC - Prime Minister Stephenson King Tuesday declared a state of emergency as St. Lucia struggles to recover in the aftermath of what he described as the worst natural disaster in the history of the island.

King said while the damage caused by Hurricane Tomas, when it struck over the weekend has been conservatively estimated at in excess of US$100 million, the government has already made an appeal for regional and international assistance.

“We have already put out through NEMO (National Emergency Organisation) a declaration of a state of emergency which immediately triggers off our regional and international appeal, and so the international community will respond.

“Our diplomats/ and ambassadors in New York particularly at the United Nations…have been alerted and given instructions to begin mobilising the international community for assistance to St. Lucia so that is taking place,” he told reporters.

Earlier, the Prime Minister said that he had been in contact with the World Bank, the United States and French governments for financial and technical support in research and rescue operations.

Scores of persons in the southern part of the island have remained trapped as a result of various landslides, washed away bridges and the collapse of the road network.

So far 12 people have been confirmed dead and the search is continuing for others trapped in houses hit by the landslides.

Parliamentary representative for the Soufriere constituency, the hardest hit area in the south, Harold Dalson, told reporters that it will take quite some time for his area to recover from the devastating blow dealt by the hurricane.

He described the scene as to an atomic bomb attack and that several persons were still unaccounted for and hundreds of others rendered homeless.

“The situation in the town of Soufriere is desperate we have had hurricanes in the past but none to match that one, both in terms of physical damage and the number of deaths we have recorded thus far.

“The Fond St. Jacques that we knew last Friday is no longer the Fond St. Jacques. It reminds me of what once sees on television after one drops a huge bomb and there is a massive explosion,” he said.

He urged the Prime Minister to declare Soufriere a national disaster given the widespread damage and the deaths associated with the storm.

“I am not asking that it be declared a disaster area only in name but in so far as it is going to qualify the town for assistance from the consolidated fund or through grants and loans, to channel a lot more resources so that some normalcy should be restored,” Dalson said.

“It will take a very long time for Soufriere to be restored to where it was last week,” Dalson said.

The west coast town has been cut off by road and can only be accessed by boat.

Government, civil and community groups and the Red Cross are mobilizing humanitarian aid for the residents of the area.

“We have to conduct a proper assessment to make sure those in desperately in need of supplies will receive them,” said Hubert Pierre of the Red Cross.

Pierre said the Red Cross is also addressing fears of the outbreak of diseases as several residents have been seen collecting water from drains and gullies for use at home.

The Air and Sea Ports Authority (SLASPA) Tuesday announced the re-opening of the Hewanorra International Airport in Vieux Fort, south of here, and the authorities said they expect full service to be restored there by the end of Tuesday.