Tomas weakens; could regain strength
MIAMI – Tropical Storm Tomas continues to weaken today after causing death and widespread destruction as it made its way across the Eastern Caribbean as a Category One hurricane over the weekend.
The Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said that the storm was now located 135 miles north east of Curacao with maximum sustained winds of 50 miles per hour (mph).
The center of the tropical storm was located near latitude 13.8 north and longitude 67.7 west and it is moving at 14 mph. The NHC said that this general motion with a decrease in speed is expected for the next 48 hours.
“Additional weakening is forecast over the next 24 hours, but re-strengthening could begin by late Tuesday, the NHC said.
Thomas was blamed for two deaths in St. Lucia as it barreled across the island on Sunday as a Category One storm.
In a statement Sunday Prime Minister Stephenson King said he had received reports that a visitor and a resident of the east coast village of Dennery died during the passage of the storm.
He said that the visitor whose named was not disclosed, drowned on a north east coast beach while a 31 year-old woman died after her vehicle ran off the road and fell down a precipice.
King said he had taken an aerial survey of the storm damage and it is clear that there had been extensive damage.
“From the air, the southern town of Vieux Fort appeared to have received the brunt of Tomas’s fury and we will have to go into this area which was still blocked by landslides and virtually inaccessible to carry out a more detailed account of the damage.
“The village of Dennery on the east coast once again suffered from the elements with the Dennery Hospital and Primary School losing their roofs, while a number of bridges vital to the operation of the country’s road network were washed away, “he said.
King said flood water damage to the commercial community in the capital and outskirts would probably result in business places remaining close on Monday.
King, who had been in Barbados during the passage of the storm, said that he has already held talks with United States government representatives as well as the World Bank.
The Prime Minister said that the vital banana industry had been severely affected and that this could have a “severe effect on the economy of St. Lucia”.
Minister for Communications Guy Joseph speaking on radio on Sunday, told listeners the damage is “ “worse than we could think of”.
He said that St Lucians should expect water problems as the Roseau dam was inaccessible.
In neighbouring St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, described the damage caused by the storm as “the worst we have seen in living memory.
“Fortunately we have had no loss of lives,” Gonsalves said, adding “the damage has been horrific”.
Gonsalves, who has appealed to the regional and international community for help in rebuilding the country
The Prime Minister said that a number of people were still in various shelters across the island and that 350 houses had destroyed and the banana industry had been “wiped out”.
Gonsalves said that the road net has been damaged and that north east section ofg the island has been “badly affected”.
Meanwhile, as Jamaicans prepare for the passage of the storm, Prime Minister Bruce Golding has called a special meeting of the country’s emergency relief agencies on Monday amidst fears that Tomas could regain strength as it nears the island.
The state run Jamaica Information Service said Golding would update the nation on the outcome of his meeting with the various agencies.
Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Ronald Jackson, said the agency is monitoring the progress of the system before activating its response mechanism.
He is urging the public to remain calm.
“I know that there is some amount of anxiety, i want to advice the public to use this opportunity to review any family disaster plans or any mechanism that they have in place …” he said.
Junior Minister for Local Government Robert Montague said all emergency agencies have been put on full alert.
“All parish disaster teams are on alert and the cleanup work from hurricane Nicole will be intensified over the next few days. So by tomorrow we should be at least eighty percent there in terms of preparedness”
Meanwhile, Tomas has weakened to a tropical storm but could re-strengthen near Jamaica later this week.
The National Meteorological Service says Jamaica should feel begin feeling the impact of the storm by Thursday as it passes to the east of the island.
Haitian and foreign aid agency officials were on Monday urging citizens to take every precaution in the likelihood that the country is affected by the rains and winds associated with the weakening storm.
Haiti, which was battered by an earthquake in January and is now recovering from an outbreak of cholera, has been sending out text messages and broadcast warnings of a possible landfall late this week.
“This is absolutely what the county does not need right now. It’s tragedy after tragedy,” said Imogen Wall, a spokeswoman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. “We are managing three large-scale responses simultaneously”.
Tropical storm Tomas also ripped off dozens of roof tops, blew away galvanised sheets, and uprooted trees and utility poles in Barbados over the weekend. (CMC)