CASTRIES –– St Lucians have been picking up the pieces from a trail of destruction left behind after 14 hours of battering by Tropical Storm Matthew.
Although there have been no reports lives being lost, there has been significant damage to infrastructure as well as landslides, while several roads have been damaged by floods and blocked by debris and fallen trees which also brought down high powered lines.
As a result of the road network being littered in some areas with high tension wires, schools were ordered closed while the commercial sector was given the option of opening after mid-day, but the banking community remains closed until Friday.
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet speaking from Miami where he was awaiting a flight to return home said as a result of fallen trees and flying debris 70 per cent of St.Lucians were without electricity and a higher per cent without piped water.
In a later update he said that both airports, which were closed on Wednesday, have now been reopened.
Tropical Storm Matthew dumped over ten inches of rain when it passed directly over St Lucia on Wednesday afternoon accompanied by strong gusts sometimes exceeding 60 miles per hour.
Met officials said ?the system was accompanied by high seas with waves of up to 20 feet.
A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister Thursday said government was in the process of conducting an initial damage assessment following the passage of the storm.
“The country was given the “all alear” by the St Lucia Meteorological Office at 8 a.m. (local time) Thursday and the tropical storm warning was discontinued.
“Acting Prime Minister Lenard Montoute has been working closely with the director of National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) Velda Joseph and other agencies in making sure disaster relief is provided and that a full assessment of the situation is done. The Acting Prime Minister this morning took an aerial tour of the island in order to get a full picture of the damage,” the statement noted.
Emergency services are also on full alert and the Ministry of Infrastructure has been mobilizing clearing crews to make roads passable and repair damage. Parliamentary Representatives for the various constituencies are also doing their assessments.
St Lucia’s airports have also reopened, however, persons are still asked to remain cautious and venture out only if it safe to do so.
“We would like to make it clear that citizens should only venture out if it is safe and necessary. There are emergency personnel from several agencies, especially the police, who I know would like the roads to remain as clear as possible,” Montoute said.
“NEMO emergency teams in all communities have been activated and they are doing their assessments of damage. Please report any damage to the relevant authorities. The key here is safety so I want to reiterate that people should not venture out unless necessary.”
The acting prime minister called on the nation to keep other islands affected by the storm “in our thoughts” and sent condolences to the government and people of St Vincent and the Grenadines where at least one life is confirmed lost due to Tropical Storm Matthew.
Since the passage of the storm NEMO has partially activated the Emergency Operations Centre and opened six shelters where 130 persons were accommodated.
Residents in affected areas are asked to report damage caused by the weather system to their respective District Disaster Committees.