Diplomats appeal for aid
WASHINGTON – Diplomats from the Eastern Caribbean islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia and Dominica yesterday appealed for international aid to recover from the freak Christmas storm that killed close to 20 people and left a trail of destruction.
The permanent representatives to the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) gave dramatic details about the damages that resulted from the intense torrential rains during a press conference at OAS headquarters.
“I want to thank those in the international community that have come to our aid and to make an appeal for more assistance as we try to rebuild the devastated regions of our country,” said La Celia Prince, the permanent representative of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, recalling that her country accumulated 12.5 inches of rain in just five hours between Christmas Eve and Day, adding that it was “something not seen in 100 years.”
“People still have a dire need, and we are on a long road to recovery,” she emphasized, stating that the rains and resulting flooding took the lives of nine people and several remain missing.
Prince said “14 percent of the population is still reeling from the impact.”
Her St. Lucian counterpart, Sonia Johnny, said: “We have been quite surprised at the magnitude of the damage; and, while initially we thought we would be able to respond with local resources and regional neighbors, we have been proven wrong.”
Johnny said six people died in her country as a result of the storm, indicating that the costs of reconstruction would likely reach several hundred millions of dollars.
“So we will be seeking support in technical assistance and expertise not just to recover from this tragic episode but also to improve upon our early warning system,” she said.
Ambassador Hubert Charles, of Dominica, said the initial cleanup work in his country has been completed but that “extra-budgetary contributions are required to fund the program for repair and reconstruction of damaged civil infrastructures, shoring up embankments, and providing support for the families and small businesses impacted by the storm.”
Charles underscored that the rains were unusual in that they took place after the end of hurricane season.
Assistant Secretary General of the OAS, Albert Ramdin, said “the OAS is committed to support, in any form we can, the relief efforts, with a focus not only on the immediate needs but also on long term restructuring and rebuilding.”
Ramdin said that the hemispheric body has made an undisclosed contribution to the affected countries and “will meet with its Inter-American partners Tuesday in the Inter-American Committee on Natural Disaster Reduction.” (CMC)