CASTRIES, St. Lucia: Prime Minister Stephenson King says it could take up to US$500 million to repair the infrastructural damage caused by Hurricane Tomas, much more than he had initially estimated and significantly more than the nation can afford.
King said that after scrutinizing the damage caused by Tomas, which also resulted in 14 deaths on the island, he realized St. Lucia will need a lot more to get back to normal and will not be able to do it alone.
“The damage is so extensive to infrastructure, to property, to lives, that EC$100 million cannot do the job; it’s anything climbing to US$500 million, for what I have seen taking place here,” he said.
King said the cost of damage to the John Compton Dam, the island’s main water source, would be a few million dollars alone and the community of Fond St. Jacques would have to be declared a special enforcement area, allowing for many of the residents to be moved to other areas.
That relocation, King said, would translate to new developments, buildings, housing, infrastructure, utilities and more money.
As a result of the damage to the dam, which is now inaccessible due to a landslide, the government has announced a water related emergency.
“While a national disaster has already been declared, the water emergency is a specific announcement in light of the implications for the island, which is under threat of a dwindling water supply,” a government statement said. “The Ministry of Health has issued strict sanitary protocols for use of water including boiling before drinking, washing of hands before food preparation and consumption and most importantly conservation of current supplies.”
The water-related emergency declaration will allow law enforcement authorities to stop residents from using water for purposes such as watering lawns, washing vehicles and filling pools.
King said he has been encouraged by the response of the international community to St. Lucia’s plight so far.
“Most times international support is dependent on need rather than just giving, and there has been a lot of interest in our needs as to what we want exactly and what is required to enable us to reconstruct the country. So far the level of interest is extremely high in terms of actual monies coming in. We have already been able to trigger off a number of envelopes of assistance under disaster funds,” he said.
King said the governments of Britain, the United States, France, Panama and several Caribbean nations have made contact to see how they can assist. After an initial assessment, the Catastrophic Caribbean Risk Insurance Fund (CCRIF) also indicated that St. Lucia would benefit from an approximate US$3.2 million payout.