Sunday, January 16, 2011

St. Lucia, Recovering after Tomas Still

Well into the New Year, I just finished watching a locally produced Helen TV video with the Deputy Chief Forestry Officer, Lydon John "Riding the Aftermath" in the Wake of Hurricane Tomas; it was done in the early days after the storm and in watching it, as they drive up the Barre de l'Isle, into Fond St. Jacques and up around Colombette where Livity Art Studio and Sabi and Eugenia's home once stood it made me realize that in fact, much has been done in clearing up...despite the fact that there is still so much more to do that when you drive around the island you are temped to ask 'What are we waiting for?"

As life would have it, I cannot locate the photos I took when I drove down the East coast mid December where, as I descended the Barre de l'Isle towards Tomazo, I counted at least 12 places where the road had just fallen away and was now barred off with 2x2 makeshift fences, and the photos as I drove through the dip at Mon Repos where the road had been scoured away, must be 20 ft deep, by a river reclaiming it's right of passage. Even now, I'm pausing to consider if perhaps there is somewhere they might be that I have not thought of...I don't think so though.

And I KNEW that as soon as I posted, I'd find my here are a few - if you've driven the Barre de l'Isle you'll understand how strange the bare hillside is; the beauty of that road is the lush vegetation-treeferns, bamboo, gommier trees...the whole uphill stretch is stripped bare, then going down the other side the road has fallen away every 20-30 metres.
Going up the Barre de l'Isle, the vegetation is all stripped
Coming down the other side, the road has fallen away and temporary barriers erected

In some places, rebuilding of the retaining walls of gabian baskets has begun

Nonetheless, that day I travelled down to Micoud to do a session with the St. Lucia Network of Rural Women Producers Micoud Cluster (yes, they need a more attractive name to market themselves under!) they told me they still had no water in the pipes - 2 months on. Tanks were being placed around the area - but most homes had no water unless it rained...and it had hardly rained.

Last week on Facebook a resident of Vanard lamented that her area had not yet gotten water since the hurricane! There was a discussion with WASCO our water company, and we all agreed that their task was beyond what most people could imagine; I noted that as I drive around the island now - in and out of areas - I see the roads that were still in one piece after the storm, now degrading as the heavy rains off and on continue the work that Tomas 24+ inches didn't quite get done. A couple days later the same resident rejoiced for the 2hr period the water flowed in her home and before sunrise, she was able to take a shower! Small mercies.

We see in the news this week IMF approves $8.2Million for relief work in St. Lucia and many other institutions and countries have sent aid money too...but how long it will take us to reconstruct is a question indeed.
The river crosses the road every time it rains
I took this picture of Anse Galet near Anse la Raye, when I went down on January thought was "What are we waiting for?" As I thought when I drove from Corinth to Bois d'Orange over what passes for a bridge...
Is it a bridge? Bois d'Orange, gap from Corinth (photo Finola Prescott)
But then I drove the same road a week later and they had cleared much of the way - they were working right into the night when I drove back around 7:30pm and I am told they are already constructing a proper bridge to replace the temporary crossing...

And with all the news of snows and floods and earthquakes around the world, hundreds lost in Brazil, weeks of floods in Australia (St. Lucia, Australia no less) our big loss sort of pales in comparison - and you can't help but feel our smallness. And as the 1st Anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti passing with reports of how little of the rubble has been cleared, how much remains to be is easy to see how easy it is to be forgotten, feel like we're left to figure it out for ourselves.

But the reality is that work is constantly going on to fix our island - the WASCO guy made the comment that
"The scope of the work changes with every new event. We had to relocate our pipe in Anse la Raye to the middle of the road to prevent them from being washed away again. We're having issues of varying natures and magnitude in other parts too -- from turbidity to clogged lines to damaged pumps, etc. It's hard work that seems unending."
It will be a long road.

For those of you who send barrels to help families - apparently St. Lucia received somewhere in the region of 40,000 barrels this Christmas, where normally it would be about 15,000. It might be worth checking with your beneficiary on whether they have managed to clear their goods though - I think people are being advised to use a broker to speed clearance and of course there are costs involved with that. But thanks for the generosity...that's a lot of barrels.

For our part, our small group of artists got ourselves formalized and we organized what will be a monthly event, the "Craft & Farmers' Market" in Rodney Bay on the last Saturday of each month - basically a free event to provide a place where artisans and small farmers and agro-producers can sell and earn and therefore assist themselves to fix back their own lives and livelihoods.
A stall at the first "Craft & Farmers' Market"
We are all struggling a bit with getting our Art Auction organized - life in small island paradise can be challenging, so 'spare time' for an artisan-microbiz is not always easy to find...but we are working on it...and in the background working on a much larger project which will need co-operation and approval and funding to become a reality - but we feel positive about it, it's our way to commemorate our lost fellow artisans, Sabi, Eugenia, their kids and Edge...will certainly post more on that in the near future...but first I must work on the proposal!

Meanwhile, the hotels are filling up and many of the attractions have been cleared...there's a lot still to do, but in parts, St. Lucia can still claim "Simply Beautiful"
Diamond Falls, Soufriere (photo Tim Prescott)
Pigeon Island National Landmark (photo Finola Prescott)
Sunset over Rodney Bay with Cruise Ships (photo Finola Prescott)
Have you visited recently? What's your experience?
Do you live here? How are things getting back to normal...or not, for you?