Tomas blamed for 14 deaths in St Lucia

CASTRIES, St Lucia, Monday November 1, 2010 – At least 14 people have been confirmed dead in St Lucia as a result of Hurricane Tomas, but with people still buried and a community still cut off from the rest of the country, there are fears the death toll could rise.

The exact cause of the deaths was not revealed by Prime Minister Stephenson King but most of them occurred in the southern town of Soufrière which is currently inaccessible. 

Prime Minister King, who conducted an aerial survey of Tomas’ damage to his country, said Soufrière was devastated.

“Everyone is locked in and no one can leave or get in by road or by phone so there are persons who need help but cannot be reached,” he said. “It’s not just a question of clearing these roads because there are sections of the network that have completely disappeared so that we are just going to have to find another way in and out of the town.”

Two main bridges, D’Orange Bridge and Choc Bridge are also impassable along the Castries/Vieux Fort highway. Minister of Communication and Works, Guy Joseph, had earlier indicated that it would take about a week to restore linkages between Vieux Fort and Castries while Soufrière may be inaccessible by road for up to three weeks. 

Schools across the island remained closed and the Hewanorra International Airport in the south has still not resumed operations. However, the George Charles Airport in the capital, Castries, has opened. 

Although most of the island has been affected, the south was the worst hit, with the town of Vieux Fort most severely affected, according to Prime Minister King.

The damage caused by Tomas is estimated to be more than US$100 million. 

St Lucia, like St Vincent and the Grenadines which was also badly hit by Tomas over the weekend when it was a hurricane, has asked for external assistance.

So far, the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) has indicated that its preliminary calculations indicate that St Lucia will get a payout of about US$3.2 million, St Vincent and the Grenadines US$1.1 million and Barbados – which was the first to feel Tomas – will get US$8.5 million.

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