Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hurricane Tomas - What happens after the glow wears off?

As most readers will know, I’ve been working with a group of people who came together to share their skills and energies to assist the efforts of the relief agencies working in St. Lucia; it’s been an interesting time so far.
At last evening’s meeting reports were, that donations to the Red Cross shopping trolleys in the supermarkets – the hype is wearing off – the North looks too normal and it would seem complacency is setting in. This is not good – the care packages are still needed and we can’t assume overseas aid will fill this need – a lot of the aid coming in is dealing with infrastructure, health, cleanup – St. Lucia and groups abroad, we need to keep up the dry and canned foods, baby supplies and sanitary supplies.
Aside from us recognizing this need to re-hype care donations, discussions were moving from emergency relief towards recovery – for although we really can’t say that the emergency is over – each big rain cloud shows us that the rivers can still flood and the mud can still slide – we do at the same time, need to start working to get people’s lives back towards normal.
In all of this, there are people who are very much still marooned by the metres of mud that descended from the mountains, swept away and buried their homes, vehicles, farms and kitchen gardens. The muds that took their clothes, school books, silted up the water processing plants, broke water pipes and stubbornly remain in place making any movement in or from these areas difficult at best.
House buried and destroyed by Hurricane Tomas (Photo-Shaun Alcindor)
So schools are all still closed – clean-ups are just beginning and we hope to have a better idea of what got lost where – books, equipment, etc – and we’ll try to help with that area, so please stay tuned – we know for sure a lot of books were lost, but before we ask for books, we need to find out exactly which ones are needed.
Rotary and Aquaboxes and Aquafilters are moving to get water supplies stabilized for schools – they can’t open without sufficient water for basic sanitary care…
We heard a couple days ago that a million water purification tablets are on the way – I think normally 1 tablet treats 1 gallon of water…my lay instincts tell me we’ll need more as our normally safe water supply will take a while to get cleaned out, tested and back up and running. In the meantime, people are being advised to boil water for 10-15 minutes before using it to drink or cook, but that’s a tall ask for many – we normally use small bottles of LPG in most homes – 20-25lb cylinders, so that’s a lot of gas to be using at a time when incomes are shattered.
Many people haven’t really heard the advisories on water safety as advisories are not, inho, going out on enough channels of the media. Many people are bathing (Lucian for taking a shower/bath) in springs they’ve ‘found’ – do we know if these sources are ok? I’m not sure – we do tend to assume a spring is purified, filtered water – not necessarily.
A Quote from FreeDrinkingWater.com and ok, I don’t know how accurate this is, but it sounds sensible…any experts care to comment? I will try to get info from a health authority, but in the meantime:
The quality of water discharged by springs can vary greatly because of factors such as the quality of the water that recharges the aquifer and the type of rocks with which the ground water is in contact. The rate of flow and the length of the flow path through the aquifer affects the amount of time the water is in contact with the rock, and thus, the amount of minerals that the water can dissolve. The quality of the water also can be affected by the mixing of freshwater with pockets of ancient seawater in the aquifer or with modern seawater along an ocean coast.
So, should you feel confident about whipping out your canteen and filling it with cool and refreshing spring water? No, you should be cautious. The temperature of an Ozark spring comes from its passing through rock at a mean annual temperature of 56 degrees Fahrenheit. The water is crudely filtered in the rock, and the time spent underground allows debris and mud to fall out of suspension. If underground long enough, lack of sunlight causes most algae and water plants to die. However, microbes, viruses, and bacteria do not die just from being underground, nor are any agricultural or industrial pollutants removed. 
UPDATE - listening to someone from Health Dept I believe - anyway, 8 drops of Chlorine Bleach to 1 Gal water, also, they will have the first shipment of purification tablets available from tomorrow - collect at your Health Centre. Also, very soon, portable water purifiers will be set up at various points where you can take water to be purified and carry it home - stay tuned!

In mud-damaged areas, some are in bare feet or bare hands trying to clean up and fix up. We need to err on the side of caution as much as possible – but for that I think we’ll need plenty of water purification tablets and plenty of public advisories across all stations – and that would include those that are ‘fringe’ the ones not carrying the talk shows.
People are doing what they can for themselves - but what's their health risk? (PHoto-Sean Compton)
In coming posts I’ll start to talk more about what many of us think is important – encouraging those of you who have expressed your interest in helping, to extend that help into considering buying St. Lucian products for your Christmas gifts, homes, lives…There is no doubt the tourism sector has taken a serious blow – granted, efforts to get all the hotels and sites back up and going are furiously going on with lots of good plans to help ensure as many people can earn an income in these hard times; shift sharing has been employed by a number of local businesses to make, I hear, up to 16 jobs where before there were only 4. Then these people can get off the care packs and back to spending their earnings back into the local economy. That’s recovery.
In the meantime – for various accounts you can donate money to click here, or, here, or here,
Yesterday’s post talks about sending Barrels – limits, what you can send, etc.
Here’s a link to a frequent visitor to St. Lucia – she’s selling her printed items and all the profit she’d normally get from the printed items and 10 of the 12 dollars for downloads will go to the Red Cross.  (I do not know this person, but I asked about exactly how’s she’s handling her little campaign and this is the info she gave)
Most phone systems are back up now, but if there are still persons you have not been able to contact, please call 1 758 489 8877 or 1 758 520 8877
Please stay tuned
Sunset in Beautiful Saint Lucia, Nov 7th, 2010 (photo-Finola Prescott)