ST. VINCENT: – Disaster first responders in St. Vincent and the Grenadines were at 10 p.m. Eastern Caribbean time on Saturday, Oct. 30, standing by to clean up after Hurricane Tomas, which left at least two persons seriously injured, blew off roofs, caused landslides and significant damage to agricultural crops.
The local Meteorological Office advised at 8 p.m. that the core of the hurricane, which was packing winds of 90 miles per hour (MPH), was moving away from St. Vincent and neighbouring St. Lucia.
The advisory said that the weather system was moving toward the north-northwest at nine MPH.
It, however, warned that storm surges and large and potentially destructive waves were still possible but would diminish overnight.
The national Hurricane Centre in Miami said that at 8 p.m. on Saturday, the system was located about 40 miles northwest of St Vincent.
Report reaching I Witness-News indicate that in St. Vincent one house was extensively damaged by a falling breadfruit tree in Marriaqua, about 100 houses lost their roofs, there were some 22 road blocks mainly on the eastern side of the St. Vincent and about 21 emergency shelters have been occupied.
Reports out of St. Lucia said the hurricane tore off roofs, damaged houses and downed power while rains triggered a landslide that blocked a main highway linking the capital — Castries — to the island’s southern region.
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Meanwhile, the nation’s Prime Minister Stephenson King was stranded in Barbados on an official trip and apologized to his people as the nation plunged into darkness.
“It hurts me to know that I am not around to give courage, strength and guidance at a time when we all must bond together and give support to each other,” King said in a statement, according to st.luciaweek.com
The storm, which was packing winds of up to 75 miles per hour (MPH) when it affected St. Vincent on Saturday, forced the electricity company to shut down the grid.
However, the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) advised at 10 p.m. Saturday that electricity had been restored to some areas.
Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves, who has ministerial responsibility for disaster management, addressed the nation Saturday night, advising resident to assess their situation and determine if they should to move to an emergency shelter.
“Already, I have mobilized the assessment committee to do the assessment from tomorrow morning very early. You will see me on the road from tomorrow very early. Some persons may see me on the road tonight after 10 o’clock when this system has subsided sufficiently. But please don’t go out at all unless it is absolutely necessary … [don’t] go out and cause additional difficulty,” he said on radio.
Gonsalves encouraged citizens to remain indoors, except personnel “who are engaged in absolutely vital emergency work”.
He had in an earlier address said that heavy equipment had been deployed to strategic locations across the country to clear blocked road if necessary.
“… [A]s soon as the heavy winds subside and the conditions become favourable, they will be on the streets very early thereafter to be cleaning all the road blockages. It will take a little while to do the assessment — tomorrow and into Monday,” he said Saturday night.
“I want to assure everyone that the police are properly mobilized, the coast guard has been doing its work and the small crafts have been brought up to the land,” he said.
Gonsalves said there will be storm surges as the hurricane moves out to the Caribbean Sea and that these surges will affect the leeward (western) coast
“So please don’t take any chances now. It is a very difficult situation,” he said.
He further said agricultural cultivation has suffered “immense loss”, adding, “[C]ultivation has in the main been severely damaged, banana trees have been flattened — thrown down, uprooted…”
Gonsalves further said there has been “tremendous landslides”.
“It is a very difficult situation but we are a strong people. We have fortitude and we have the blessing and the grace of almighty God…
I ask again for us to be very careful. Let’s be cautious, I am quite sure that Almighty God will continue to bless us. I know that people have been praying — church leaders and ordinary citizens — for us to be protected. Thank God, we have had no loss of life, let us hope that it so remains and be careful.
He told citizens to be careful while taking steps to secure their homes.
“But please, be very, very careful, be cautious, do not take any risk.
“I am here with you. We will rebuild. We will recover. We will reconstruct. Of that I have absolutely no doubt. Together, in communion with one another, under the suzerainty of God, we will recover, we will grow stronger. Please, let us at this time be very sensible, be very careful, be very focused. Again, I remind you, sustained winds are likely to be with us for the next three hours,” Gonsalves said.