A massive effort is underway to address the plight of victims of the November 6 floods in the island’s northern region.
Meanwhile the country’s leaders, government departments and agencies are still coming to grips with the scale of the destruction, the issue of climate change and its adverse consequential effects.
Gros Islet MP, Kenson Casimir, recalled the trauma and setbacks he encountered while visiting communities in his constituency, urging interventions and undertakings to be established to cater for vulnerable persons.
He proposed a set of initiatives for consideration, which included the reestablishment of Community Disaster Response Teams (CDRTs).
Said Casimir: “Community Disaster Response Teams have been in existence and trained …in times past. I feel it is important that those flood-prone vulnerable areas be equipped with training in first aid, in the initial response, and going forward this will pay huge dividends when these disasters occur.”
Additionally, he said these initiatives will include the establishment of a data base of persons in disaster areas; meeting with the Insurance Council and conducting an education drive on home insurance; continued lobbying and intervention for Gros Islet residents in flood-prone areas for gabion baskets, frequent de-silting and personal responsibility for in and around homes in terms of cleanliness and a Gros Islet Friday Night telethon event “to bring in as much resources from Saint Lucia, the region and the world to aid in the recovery efforts” for those in need.
While expressing ‘deep emotions’ and gratitude, Casimir acknowledged the support from government, corporate sponsors, utility services, Red Cross, the Cadet Corps and other persons who are assisting with the recovery efforts.
“Their support was timely…and I would also like to thank NEMO for their strategic interventions throughout the constituency,” he said.
Social Affairs and Equity Minister Joachim Henry, brought into sharp focus the perennial nature of flooding in the Bexon area and its associated problems.
Noting that the constituency was not oblivious to these disturbing weather conditions, Henry stated: “It is very painful that the same residents and the same persons continue to be affected.” He noted a zonal mapping would indicate that this is a highly vulnerable ‘flood prone’ constituency and the Marc area has at least 10 to 15 bridges.
“And when there is heavy rainfall in Saint Lucia …the turbulence and the reality of life in the community of Marc is real,” said Henry.
He said the issue of settlements where people live on the riverbanks in Marc and the recent flooding are “events that are not comfortable for the residents.”
As a result of the deluge, Henry said, residents “are affected and their livelihoods are affected, and the full impact is yet to be realized.”
He noted that there are issues with the de-silting process in that community as the waterways in Castries Southeast are “inundated” and “even with de-silting of three feet deep is not adequate … and after discussions with the Ministry of Infrastructure, we expect that we will move forward having monitors in the rivers, to measure not just rainfall but the height of silt so that we can de-silt or remove in a very accurate and scientific way in places where it ought to be removed.”
Henry added that the issue of adaptation is critical and the community is working with the planning department to ascertain “who should relocate to move from the river banks”. He said the matter of slaughtering is also cause for concern as there are “many slaughtering practices along the riverbanks in Marc and also the need for us to revisit the issue of farming practices, involving persons with fish ponds along the river banks.”
The Castries Southeast MP noted that the residents of Bexon, Marc have been “living this (ordeal) over and over for many years, and I hope that the issue of adaptation, our land use plans, our hazard maps, our monitors for de-silting would be put in place so that we can be very scientific and very investigative” so the authorities can better address these issues that impact the population.
Providing a wider perspective of the recent situation, Infrastructure Minister Stephenson King noted, there were several shortcomings that needs to be dealt with.
“While we agree and accept that what is taking place currently…is as a consequence of climate change , we also recognize that there are other factors that compound the impact of climate change,” said King .
He added, “Not only are we experiencing abnormal weather conditions… the items that came downstream were even more revealing with garbage, old appliances, and furniture and all other things that our people normally would find absolutely nowhere to dispose of but in our rivers and streams and ravines.”
King revealed that over the years, government has spent about $2 to $5 million in de-silting works.
He said the authorities have been able to undertake the necessary consultations to determine “the impact of the flooding in the areas affected and the damage caused to the infrastructure of the country.”
According to the minister, work has already begun in what he referred to as “the preliminary exercise” of cleaning up , which will come at a cost of more than $800, 000 in Gros Islet, Babonneau , Castries North , Castries Central , Castries Southeast and Castries East, adding that “all those areas will be cleaned up in the coming days as we move on.”
King noted that the Ministry of Infrastructure has scheduled a “way forward” that will include cleanups, and “a comprehensive assessment of the overall damage caused, and reconstruction or reinstatement of the infrastructure, which is ongoing.”
Most importantly, he said, is the “futuristic” component that deals with the future infrastructural modification of the country.