Prime Minister on the Passage of Hurricane Lenny - November 18, 1999
Fellow St. Lucians,
Once again, I am forced to address you on a matter of national emergency. These are testing times for us all. First it was Boguis, then Black Mallet. Now, several communities have been affected by the passage of an unexpected Hurricane Lennie. As with Boguis and Black Mallet, this latest disaster has left some unforgettable memories and impressions on the minds of St. Lucians. Elderly citizens in Choiseul and Soufriere have said to me that they have never seen the sea in so much rage and turmoil. Its destructiveness was immense and unforgiving.
But apart from Soufriere, several communities along the North and West coasts of St. Lucia also experienced the devastating effects of Hurricane Lennie.
While the centre of this storm was located in the north-west Caribbean, we were not spared the back-lash of its 135-miles-per-hour winds.
We have all been reminded that we can never let our guard down during or after the hurricane season.
Throughout today, damage assessment teams have been visiting all areas needing emergency attention. Reports have been prepared and submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers.
Let me now give you a summary of these reports and advise you of the plans of Government to provide immediate relief and help to all who have suffered.
Soufriere has suffered the brunt of Lennie’s assault. As you may be aware by now, I had the opportunity to see for myself the high seas and the actual damage.
The Soufriere waterfront particularly at Baron’s Drive and Coin d’L’Anse) have been battered by the action of the huge waves.
Many homes and businesses have been destroyed. At present, some very considerate families have opened their doors to relatives affected, while several others are in the local shelters. I applaud their actions and urge others to follow suit.
According to our reports earlier today, 53 buildings have been damaged with the result that 80 persons are now homeless. Of these, many have been completely destroyed, leaving many, many people without a home or shelter, food or clothing.
Thankfully there has been no loss of life. However, one person has been hospitalised at St. Jude’s Hospital, who was hurt while trying to save someone from drowning. I applaud that individual’s effort and wish him a speedy recovery.
Yesterday, while in Soufriere, I myself also witnessed an encouraging act of bravery when a young Rastaman swam out to rescue someone who, for reasons best known to him, thought a boat at anchor was an experience worth exploring. He too, must be applauded.
The fishermen of Soufriere have lost their jetty and their sale outlet. Four boats and three engines have been lost. The second berthing facility for tourist pleasure boats has also been destroyed.
Waves have totally destroyed the Texaco Gas Station on the Waterfront. The new craft market has also been flooded and severely damaged.
The ground floor of the Soufriere Police Station was flooded. The ground floors of all buildings along the Waterfront are covered with sand to a depth of about three feet. Sand is being removed from the Waterfront area in an orderly manner with trucks and vans assisting. The depth of sand is about five feet on average and I have been given the assurance that the road should be clear by tomorrow midday.
Every disaster brings sorrow. Yet, circumstances like these also provide the opportunity for faith, hope and a new beginning. I say this, because as I contemplate the total destruction of the Coin L’Anse/Baron Drive area, I see that an opportunity has been presented by this Act of God for Government to now give serious consideration to the permanent relocation of the community.
In Choiseul, the Waterfront area was covered with sand to a depth of about three feet in some areas. The southern section of the beach has been destroyed, with sand accumulating elsewhere in the village. One boat is reported to have suffered irreparable damage. As with Soufriere, the entire street along the Choiseul waterfront is covered with boulders, sand and debris, and has become inaccessible. Cleaning-up operations are well underway.
Two families have lost everything and provision is being made for them.
ANSE LA RAYE
Anse La Raye’s Front Street was completely covered with sand. The Primary School yard, as well as some classrooms, was covered with sand to about 18 inches. Again, thankfully, there are no reported injuries. Recovery work has commenced.
Several hotels reported early yesterday that their ground-floor restaurants were flooded. I have received status reports from a number of hotels and those most affected expect to be back in full operation within 24 to 36 hours. Guest morale is high and our visitors are very understanding of the circumstances. (In fact, some adventurous visitors were actually seen surfing the huge hurricane swells, which is a dangerous practice that we shall not encourage at any time like this.)
Along the village waterfront, there has been considerable erosion. Debris covers the full length of the beach. Drains have become clogged with sand.
While one person had to be evacuated to the home of family and relatives, others were reluctant to move when asked to.
Of course when such events occur, it is important to know as quickly as possible the costs of the damage. One of my first instructions was to ensure that the Office of Disaster Preparedness was provided with adequate extra funds for immediate emergency relief.
Preliminary estimates of damage costs for Soufriere and Choiseul only are in the region of almost nine million dollars.
It will cost some $2.7 million to reconstruct houses. Rebuilding the craft market will cost $630,000. The fish market and pump station will cost another $600,000. The jetty and timber deck will cost another $460,000.
Damage cost assessments are continuing in the cases of Vieux Fort, Anse La Raye, Gros Islet.
Reports still coming in from other areas of the Caribbean indicate that Lennie has been a dangerous storm, sparing virtually no island and leaving behind much destruction. Some deaths and extensive damage to property and infrastructure have been reported.
On behalf of the Government and people of St. Lucia, I extend to our Caribbean brothers and sisters our most profound concern. It seems that all the Eastern Caribbean, from St. Croix and Sint Maarten in the north to Grenada and St. Vincent in the south, have been affected. Of course, we in St. Lucia have a special concern for our fellow St. Lucians in St. Croix and other islands. Our information service will keep you updated as we get news.
Fellow St. Lucians,
As I said earlier, here in St. Lucia, the passage of Lennie follows closely on the Boguis and Black Mallet land-slippage situations. But I can assure you that this Government takes disaster-preparedness very, very seriously, and we shall continue to do all that we can to help all those affected.
We welcome all offers of help and we urge all those with means of helping, to offer assistance in any and every possible way.
We congratulate and applaud the National Emergency Management Organisation, the Office for Disaster Preparedness, the emergency committees in Soufriere, Choiseul, Vieux Fort, Anse La Raye and Gros Islet for their quick responses and their continuing efforts to take care of those made homeless by this latest disaster.
Tomorrow morning (Friday) I will meet with members of the Diplomatic Corps to brief them on the situations. The National Emergency Management Organisation will also meet at 7:00pm to assess the situation and to take whatever specific action might be necessary. As on the last occasion when the Committee met, the opposition UWP is invited to send a representative to the meeting.
In closing, however, I also want to urge all St. Lucians to ensure that we continue to learn from the lessons being offered by each of these unexpected disasters.
The most important lesson of all, however, is the need for all of us to always be fully prepared for the unexpected. That is why we continue to emphasize on disaster preparedness. That is why we continue to have annual simulation exercises to sharpen our preparedness. That is why we can never be over-prepared.
The experiences at Boguis and Black Mallet and now in Soufriere, reaffirm the need for us to always be prepared for the unexpected, whether in hurricane season, or not.
Fwè ek sè.
Mekwédi, Lennie bay moun Sent Lisi ek moun an Karaib-la an mové expéwians. Moun Soufwiè té byen afèkté. Moun Kwen’dlans ek Baron Drive ja pèdi kay-yo. Plas biznis pèdi bagai lè gwan glo antwé.
Pou sé fami ki pa ni kay, gouvedman kay fè sa I pé pou édé yo.
An Choiseul, Anse La Raye ek Gros Ilet, glo la mè antwé asou chimen ek an kay.
Mé mwen sa di’w, gouvedman ja mété tout bagai an plas pou fè situasyon-an déviwé nòmal byen vit.
Nou ja èstimé domag-la kai vini pweskè nèf millyon ($8m) dolla. Gouvèdman ka bay asistans an Soufwyè ek dòt plas ki afekté.
Pyèsson pa ka vlé bagay mové vini asou yo. Mé an latè sa la, sé pou nou toujou fè pwépawasyon pou désas.
Mwe ka wemèsyé tout moun ki ja vini douvan pou édé pèson ki pèdi kay ek dòt bagai yo.
Annou tjébé wed. Annou tjébé ansanm.
November 18, 1999
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