Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hurricane Tomas, the loss unfolds

Like many, I wake this morning to reach for my phone and try, once again, to get hold of loved ones who have not been heard from since Saturday evening. My husband Tim and stepdaughter Christalee were staying in Soufriere and though I heard, through a friend who knows the restaurant owner above their apartment, that their place is intact...I don't know if they are, do they have water, food, did their windows blow out, can they sleep at night?

St. Lucia's Prime Minister Stephenson King has declared a State of Emergency in St. Lucia. Last night we all watched the news stations and saw the aerial footage - whole sides of mountains and hills just slid away taking everything in their paths with them. It's hard to comprehend. Mud up to to top of walls of houses, cars buried, roads covered and others eaten away.

It's been frustrating for many of us - the international media have ignored this focusing only on the possibility that Haiti may be hit. Yes, I understand, any system heading their way will bring huge tragedy, but every day that passes here without the means to start digging ourselves out, more people are in danger. A tropical wave is on the way - due tomorrow...it is not the strength of the wind that did damage to us - it was the rain, the water.

The news says the death toll is expected to rise 6 confirmed dead, 7 confirmed missing - and this is before we really have even managed to get to everyone.

What happened? A huge storm came up fast. So fast that no-one had time to prepare. Now granted, we all know we are supposed to prepare every year at the start of the hurricane season. But really. Most of us spend our waking and some sleeping hours trying to figure out how to make ends meet. Our little paradise island is not an easy place to live in and get everything you need to do done - cost of living is high, wages are not so; most people manage a decent enough life...but it doesn't extend to it being easy to prepare for rare disasters.

So the reality is most people give thanks for the blessings they have and hope to live another day; it's a common parting phrase "See you tomorrow, if God/Life spare". We live like most, in a balance of gratitude, work and complacency.

So today there is mobilization. Soufriere is almost incomprehensible. If you know Soufriere, it is one mountain after a next. St. Lucia is like that, but in Soufriere it is more mountains, more height in less space. So tourism, local housing....it's all on steep slopes or in the valley where the river ends. That's in the main, how St. Lucia is built.

When you fly over the island, you see snakes of houses perched on ridges, that's how we do it, and on most days, that's fine. But if you fly over today, you'll see swathes of red mud - our island is covered in a thick layer of red clay soils and in the rainy season, the water builds up and builds up until it can't hold anymore. To be honest, I don't think we yet have figures for total rainfall in the South as recording instruments were broken, but I heard we had 10 inches (250mm) in 24 hrs. Our soils were already soaked - they couldn't hold anymore.

We need help - there are calls for heavy duty earth movers, people need to lend their boats to the effort and we surely will need help keeping order as people will be getting desperate. With a tropical wave approaching, expected tomorrow, we pray that it does not develop or that it goes somewhere else as we cannot withstand more rain. Roads that people have been using, houses that are clinging by inches, if it rains, they will slip. It is probably worth trying to get as many people out of Soufriere before any further rain hits...I'll keep updating as I have news, but in the meantime -

I called the Red Cross - the main agency that assists here and they gave me the following info if you'd like to send money:

Donate to help for Tomas victims: St. Lucia Red Cross, First Caribbean International Bank, Bridge St. Castries, A/C # 2645392 swift code FCIBLCLC -Donate to help for Tomas victims: St. Lucia Red Cross, First Caribbean International Bank, Bridge St. Castries, A/C # 2645392
Swift codes for Intermediary Banks for funds coming in the following
USD Wachovia Bank N.Y, SWIFT: PNBPUS3NNYC, ABA: 026005092
Beneficiary Bank: FirstCaribbean Int’l
Bank Swift: FCIBLCLC

Because we are not so set up for e-commerce, you can't donate direct with your credit card - you can donate to the main Red Cross, but it won't reach us so fast - so please take the time to go to your bank and make a transfer using the info above.

Also NEMO (National Emergency Management Org)

there are full bank account details for emergency relief there.