PICKING UP THE PIECES...AFTER DEADLY WEATHER

By Lara Pickford-Gordon

The people of St Lucia are “coming back to normal so far as normal can be”, said Archbishop of Castries Robert Rivas after a trough system left devastation and death behind on Christmas Eve.

Canaries RC Primary School in the aftermath of the flood waters. Photo Archbishop Robert Rivas
Canaries RC Primary School in the aftermath of the flood waters. Photo Archbishop Robert Rivas
These vehicles were tossed aside by the flood waters. Photo courtesy Trinidad Express
Canaries RC Primary School in the aftermath of the flood waters. Photo Archbishop Robert RivasThese vehicles were tossed aside by the flood waters. Photo courtesy Trinidad Express
Residents begin cleanup efforts. Photo courtesy Trinidad Express
Residents begin cleanup efforts. Photo courtesy Trinidad Express
Archbishop Robert Rivas comforts a bed-ridden resident of Anse La Raye, one of the affected communities.
Archbishop Robert Rivas comforts a bed-ridden resident of Anse La Raye, one of the affected communities.
Six persons were killed in St Lucia. Anse La Raye and Canaries in the West, Vieux Fort in the South and Bexon in the East were among the areas hardest hit.

The weather system also severely affected St Vincent where nine people were killed and three have been listed as missing.

In St Lucia, torrential showers caused rivers to overflow their banks and invade or wash away homes. Roads and bridges were destroyed or badly damaged. Access was cut off to some communities. Several residents were left without potable water and electricity.

These vehicles were tossed aside by the flood waters. Photo courtesy Trinidad ExpressThe traditional Christmas Eve Night Mass was cancelled across the diocese. Archbishop Rivas said it was the first time in 42 years as priest he did not celebrate the Christmas Eve Mass.

While St Lucia usually has some rain during December, last month's downpour was extraordinary. Archbishop Rivas reported that some elderly people said “they have never experienced anything like this.”

In a telephone interview with the Catholic News last Monday Archbishop Rivas said, “Right now people are beginning to pick themselves up after the devastation of Christmas Eve.”

This was evident at the Feast of the Holy Family Mass last Sunday which he celebrated at the Church of the Holy Family in Jacmel. Archbishop Rivas said there were 30 children present who made their First Communion. While there was no pipe-borne water anywhere, the children “were spotlessly dressed. The girls were in their nice dresses and boys in their little suits”. He saw that as indicative of the resilience of the people and the "hope they have through their faith. They did not give up. They did not cancel the First Communion. I think that will help families deal with the challenge of disaster and stress they are experiencing”.

He said he saw the havoc caused by the rainfall in a visit to the parishes. At Anse La Raye, according to the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO), 95 per cent of the 4,000 population were affected, the archbishop said.

“The river rose and broke its banks and affected all communities at that level in the villages – a lot of simple, humble homes, which means the poor are suffering,” he said.

Archbishop Rivas said it was difficult seeing what had happened to elderly persons. They showed him the state of their bedrooms; there was as much as five feet of water in some homes.

Archbishop Rivas said he saw homes in Canaries where there was mud all around. He was concerned that with water settling there could be a mosquito problem. Another impending health issue was the overflow of outhouses. “People in the Ministry of Health are taking that seriously,” he said.
Archbishop Robert Rivas comforts a bed-ridden resident of Anse La Raye, one of the affected communities.
Two Catholic primary schools in Canaries were flooded. “The story is just mud, mud, silt and damage.”

The Church has offered the St Anthony’s church to the Education Ministry for use when school resumes, and has been assisting NEMO with relief supplies, including clothing, hand soap, all-purpose cleaners and personal hygiene kits. The archbishop said mattresses and bottled water were needed.

Bishop Jason Gordon of the diocese of Kingstown said the rainfall was some of the heaviest he had ever seen and heard in his life and there was a period of non-stop lightning. “This thing came upon us without any warning,” he said.

It caused some of the worst flood damage in years. On Christmas Eve night Bishop Gordon cancelled Mass because the road in front of the St Mary’s Cathedral of the Assumption in Kingstown was “like a river”.

On Christmas Day members of the youth group and other parishioners were out to clear the forecourt, garage and presbytery of mud. Due to the work which had to be done, Mass did not take place at the scheduled 8 a.m. but at 10.15 a.m.

Bishop Gordon said some parishioners were reluctant to attend because they felt they were not appropriately dressed but he encouraged them to come in.

“It was a very powerful Mass in the midst of tragedy,” he said. Bishop Gordon visited Buccament Bay, which was one of the most affected areas of St Vincent. While there he spoke to persons who lost homes and loved ones and were being housed at a community school which was converted to a shelter. He said the “initial” response from the diocese was to get food, bedding and clothing for these persons.

The “second level” of response, Bishop Gordon said, was to arrange trauma counselling. He was not able to visit Chateaubelair, which was also affected, because the road was damaged.

“People were really caught out. People lost homes, were trapped, nearly died. There was quite a bit of trauma. In the midst of that was an incredible resilience,” he said.

The Dominica Government has reported EC$45 million worth of damage to infrastructure and homes. Bishop of Roseau Gabriel Malzaire said there were no reports of damage to any churches in Dominica and no loss of life.

Meanwhile, Archbishop of Port of Spain Joseph Harris has appealed for the T&T faithful to support the relief efforts in any way possible.

The Catholic Youth Commission (CYC) is mobilising support for St Lucians through its counterpart there. Episcopal Delegate for Youth Winston Garcia said the CYC contacted a supplier of mattresses and was able to get a good deal on mattresses. He is appealing to all parishes, prayer groups, diocesan groups and religious to assist by each purchasing five mattresses. The target is $86,000.

Funds can be donated to the Catholic Youth Commission Project –Republic Bank account number 560 176 620 701. For accountability, deposit slips must state St Lucia Relief, and a faxed copy sent to the Commission’s office at 625-0702.

Garcia said donations needed to be quickly collected so the supplier could be paid and a shipment made ready for a boat commissioned by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management which sails from Trinidad on Tuesday.

Persons seeking more information can contact Garcia at 685-0321 or email rcyctt@gmail.com .

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

There is a New Deacon in Town form the West of Trinidad.

New Prior for Holy Cross

Visit of Our Provincial