St. Vincent and the Grenadines will on Wednesday — Christmas Eve — remember the nine persons who have been confirmed dead and the three who remain missing as a result of extreme weather on Christmas Eve last year.
A national remembrance service is scheduled for 3 p.m. at St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Pembroke, a community neighbouring Buccament, where three persons were killed and a further three remain missing as a result of a trough system that produced in three hours more rain than in some months of 2013.
Immediately after the church service, there will be a candlelight march and vigil from the Church to Marty’s Gas Station, about a quarter mile away, where the body of 18-year-old Community College student, Keslia James was found on Christmas day after being swept away by flood waters Christmas Eve night.
The body of James’ 2-year-old niece, Canadian Shalarni Headley, who was visiting for Christmas, was found on a vacant lot near the gas station on Boxing Day.
James and Headley were washed away as they and other family members abandoned their riverside home as floodwaters began entering their homes.
On Monday, for the second time this year, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves read in Parliament the names of the dead and missing, which he also did during the Budget Address in January.
“I would like to join the other members on this side who had announced that there is a national remembrance service at St. Mary’s Anglican Church at Pembroke beginning at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve and then from there will be a March down to Marty’s Gas Station immediately after the service,” he said at the close of the debates on the Estimates of Income and Expenditure for 2015.
“There will be a special service at Rose Bank on Christmas day, but I understand the time is yet to be announced, and the place,” he said.
“We must remember, Mr. Speaker, as we leave today, … the lives of Raymond Gonsalves [,62,] of Manning’s Byrea; Desmond Wilson [,47,] of Vermont; Keslia James of Cane Groove; Shalarni Headley Headly of Cane Grove and Canada; Walsy Nanton [,75,] of Rose Bank, Horna Nanton [,70,] of Rose Bank; Bernard Nanton [,24,] of Rose Bank; Yowanie Nanton, also known as Yowanie Bartholomew [,18,] of Rose Bank; Hazel Baptiste [,48,] of Rose Bank; and the three persons who are missing and presumed dead: Jozel Morgan-Small [,27,] of Rillan Hill/Lowmans, Shiela Edwards [,36,] of Buccament and Inka Jack [,12,] of Buccament,” Gonsalves said.
“We say to their families, we still have the pain of your loss and we are in solidarity with you,” Gonsalves told Parliament and media audiences.
The five Nantons died when a landslide crashed into their family compound in Rose Bank, destroying two buildings.
Meanwhile, Maxwell Charles, Member of Parliament for Central Leeward, who lost constituents and neighbours in the tragedy, said, “Even at this moment, I reflect on two of my neighbours who are lost in that flood and two of my constituents who are still on the missing list.”
Persons attending the memorial service are being asked to be seated by 2:14 p.m. and to bring along their own candles for the vigil.
In addition to the memorial service, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is expected to pause for one minute of prayer at noon on Christmas Eve.
During that one minute, church bells are expected to toll, the sirens at Police Headquarters in Kingstown will be sounded, and radio stations are expected to play soft music, the National Emergency Management Organisation has said.
In addition to claiming lives, the trough system left extensive damage to houses, public infrastructure, agriculture and forestry, amounting to EC$330 million or 17 per cent of GDP, according to government estimates.
The World Bank put the damage at EC$270 million.