|Hurricane claims one life in St. Lucia and possibly two in Dominica
Friday, 17 August 2007
At least one person was confirmed dead and a massive clean up campaign was under way in St. Lucia Friday, as Hurricane Dean left a trail of destruction to the island's infrastructure during its trek across the Eastern Caribbean.
Officials of the National Emergency Organisation (NEMO) confirmed reports that one man lost his life in the Sarrot area on the east coast when he attempted to pull his cow out of a river.
In another incident, two persons were being treated at the Soufriere Hospital on the west coast after a tree fell on their house injuring the occupants.
Officials said it was still too early to say for sure whether there were any other casualties of the storm as they were awaiting reports from other areas which were prone to flooding.
Hurricane Dean, packing 100 mile per hour, moved closer to St. Lucia than was forecast, and left several areas under water making sections of the island's road network impassable.
Meteorological officials told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) the island recorded 90 mph (77knots) winds in the north of the island which uprooted trees, downed electricity poles, and removed the roofs of several homes and public buildings such as the children's hospital just outside the city.
They said the capital Castries was littered with debris from flood waters and high seas which deposited huge boulders and fishing boats on the streets making the roads impassable.
Crews from the island's power company and Ministry of Works were getting set to clear and repair downed power lines, fallen trees, disabled bridges and landslides, all of which contributed to a complete shutdown of the island's electricity supply.
Minister of Communications and Works, Guy Joseph, said several crews were being dispatched to effect repairs, clear roads and make the island's road network usable again.
"We are also hoping to give a helping hand to the many residents in the north who had lost the roofs of their homes and others who lost their entire houses," he said.
He said the island's banana sector had taken a battering from Dean which left several plantations, particularly in the northern areas, either waterlogged or destroyed by high winds.
"We expect to get a better idea as to the level of destruction once the all clear is given and the assessment teams can venture out in the fields," he said.
Officials said that they would begin restoring power to certain areas of the capital late Friday, by which time they also hoped to make the road network passable.
Dominica police Friday said they were not yet able to confirm media reports that a mother and her seven-year-old son had been killed in a landslide as heavy rains and strong winds associated with the passage of Hurricane Dean continued to pound this Caribbean island.
Rayburn Blackmore, the parliamentary representative for the Campbell area, west of here, told the state-owned radio service of the Dominica Broadcasting Corporation (DBC) that the tragic incident occurred on Friday morning, even as the authorities urged citizens to remain indoors.
But the radio station, which has been receiving reports from people and correspondents from across the island, said that the police had not yet been able to confirm the incident.
"We are awaiting confirmation from the police," said Mickey Bruney, one of the announcers at the station. Bruney, a lawyer stressed that while the police had not confirmed the report "the person making the report is a credible person," a reference to the parliamentarian.
Dean, the first named storm for the 2007 hurricane season, is slowly making its way towards the Eastern Caribbean Sea and weather officials predict it could gain strength before reaching Jamaica and Haiti.
DBS said that heavy rains and strong winds were continuing to lash the island and many rivers including one at Bath Estate, just on the outskirts of the capital had over flood their banks.
The agriculture sector in Dominica has been severely affected by Hurricane Dean and Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit says an assessment is being undertaken to determine the extent of the damages.
"Our major concern is in regards to the agriculture sector, we suspect that it will be extensively damaged. As you know the banana industry is very important to Dominica, but an assessment will be done later to determine what is the dollar value of the damages to that sector," Skerrit told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).
He said some roads had been blocked and his administration is still awaiting reports from the south and eastern sections of the island.
"We are talking of the extreme south because the hurricane basically affected the south quite a bit and also the north of the country too. We know that some five to six communities to the south and the south- east of Dominica have been affected, but we are still waiting on the confirmed numbers of homes that have been damaged.
"We are still putting together an overall assessment; as you know there are still heavy rains in some parts, heavy winds also, but we have received several reports of roofs being blown off and we estimate so far between 100 and 125 homes have been affected in somewhere or the other,” he said.
Skerrit said the sole utility company on the island had indicated it was trying to restore electricity to a number of affected areas as soon as possible.
"The telephone system is intact; the health services too, government buildings, the police stations only one station has been affected. But at large we were able to put systems in place to prevent any major catastrophic activity in Dominica. There have been no reports of lost of life in the country at this stage,” he said.
The Prime Minister is however advising citizens to remain calm.
"We should not venture out at all allow the situation to quiet down a bit and let those who have been charged with the responsibility of going out to do the assessment to do so and the government has put in place agencies to do those assessment.
"Citizens should not go out and do that themselves. I know that sometimes one can be inquisitive in wanting to know what had happened, so I urge all of us to remain indoors. We should only go out if it is absolutely necessary that we must go out."
Skerrit said that his government would provide assistance to Dominicans, many of whom do not have insurance coverage.
Regional disaster relief officials were Friday beginning to assess the trail of damage Hurricane Dean left in St Lucia and Dominica before determining if external assistance was needed, an official said.
Jeremy Collymore, head of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA) told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that it was too early to make a determination on the agency's involvement in the countries which bore the brunt of the storm's 100 miles per hour wind as reports were still very preliminary.
"The reports are still very preliminary but the damage may not have been as great as we had anticipated given the size of the event.
"Generally we have been getting reports of downed poles, road blocks, trees uprooted and some limited infrastructural impact with respect to housing, but this is all very preliminary information so we cannot say conclusively how extensive the damage will be," he added.
However, the CDERA head sad his agency had already brought together the Eastern Caribbean Donors Group and was in a position to respond to any requests from the affected countries as soon as possible.
"We are coordinating with the Regional Security System and will determine, after consultation with the countries, whether external support is needed either for the initial assessment of damage or relief assistance," he told CMC.
In St Lucia, officials of the National Emergency Organisation (NEMO) said at least one person was confirmed dead and two other were being treated at the Soufriere Hospital on the west coast after a tree fell on their house injuring the occupants.
A massive clean up campaign was under way and several houses, especially in the north of the island, lost their roofs.
In Dominica disaster officials reported major infrastructural damage as the strong hurricane continued to pound the island with strong winds and heavy rain.
Disaster Preparedness Coordinator, Cecil Shillingford, said the island was under the "heavy influence of Hurricane Dean" adding that roofs have been blown off houses and numerous trees and electricity poles were uprooted.
Up until mid morning the entire island was still without electricity and water as heavy wind and strong rain continued to pound the south coast believed to be most badly hit by Dean.
The head of Haiti's civil protection office on Friday called on residents in areas at risk to move to safer locations to avoid loss in human lives as Hurricane Dean seemed on course to hit the southern coasts of the impoverished Caribbean nation during the week-end.
Alta Jean-Baptiste said Dean could cause a lot of damage if safety measures were not applied by residents living near river banks or in river beds and in poor areas where the needy population anarchically build their flimsy houses on soft soil or on the hillsides.
"We're insistently asking those who live in fragile shacks in areas at risk to start leaving and to look for shelter else where," said Jean-Baptiste.
"You should not wait for the hurricane to hit before resolving to leave," said Jean in a message to the population on Friday.
Jean-Baptiste and other colleagues from the Civil Protection Office flew in a U.N. helicopter to provincial areas targeted by Dean to meet with local government authorities to finalise preparations for the passage of the storm.
The Director for the National Centre of Meteorology, Ronald Cemelfort, said Dean could affect the island by Saturday evening or Sunday morning.
Sea navigation has been prohibited and domestic flights, scheduled for Saturday afternoon to and from targeted areas, have been cancelled, according to Cemelfort.
Torrential rains in ordinary seasons usually cause loss of human lives and a lot of damage in Haiti because of lack of drainage infrastructures and the frailty of constructions in poor neighborhoods.