The Government and people of St Vincent and the Grenadines are bracing for further financial hardship. The island, still reeling as a result of the volcanic ash from an erupting volcano, is now forced to confront the effects of days of widespread flooding.
Over the last 48 hours, the country was pounded by more than 11 inches of torrential rains from a trough system that unlike the volcano, wreaked havoc all over the mainland.
Reports from the office of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves revealed that flooding and landslides had dealt another significant blow to private properties and overall infrastructure. The Joshua Shopping Centre, Benedict Square and numerous other business places around the capital Kingstown had been flooded out on Thursday. Bridges connecting the country’s northern and southern districts were also extensively damaged, placing those still in the country’s danger zones in a precarious position.
In the orange and red zone districts, some homes could not withstand the torrential rains, along with heaps of ash already on their roofs. Extensive flooding in at least three emergency shelters was also reported.
“It’s going to cost a lot more,” Dr Gonsalves, who also has responsibility for St Vincent’s national security told Barbados TODAY on Thursday.
“We are not yet sure the full extent of the damage, but this is on top of what we had to bear and all of this costs more … and we haven’t yet started the hurricane season properly on June 1st. It is a rough ride, but we will endure,” the Vincentian Prime Minister declared.
Dr Gonsalves’ Press Secretary Sehon Marshall revealed that debris already piled up from the eruptions came tumbling down hills and mountains in the north exacerbating the problems. He explained that while the rainfall would wash away ash on the ground, in places like Chateaubelair in the northwest, heavy ash build-ups clogged drains and this was preventing water from running off.
“There were one or two individuals who decided they were going to tough it out for the volcano. We have not heard of any of those individuals experiencing misfortune, but [Thursday] morning when I saw what was happening, my mind went to some of those individuals who decided to stay in the red zones. Now you have flooding and historically, what happens when you have flooding in those areas is that people can get trapped and are unable to move in and out of those areas. There are some areas where they need bridges, where there are dry rivers and when it rains heavily, those areas become impassable,” Marshall explained.
“There are reports that one individual’s roof, which wasn’t cleared, has caved in with the weight of wet ash. So those are some of the further challenges that we can experience and when we went on the north-eastern side, you saw the debris at the side of the roads that came down and just stopped halfway.
“There is a bridge in Georgetown in Rabacca that was built over the dry river that has improved access significantly. What I have seen thus far is that that bridge has suffered some damage where the rails have been knocked off and clearly the assumption is that whatever missiles were brought down by the river were what knocked those rails off the bridge. So those are the types of further damage we can expect from the flooding,” he added.
Prime Minister Gonsalves disclosed that electricity has been restored for some 3500 affected customers and while water systems were locked off, enough had been stored to service the entire country.
Despite the difficulties, Gonsalves expressed gratitude at the continued support extended by organisations like the United Nations, which passed a resolution on Wednesday pledged solidarity with St Vincent and the Grenadines. He also thanked world-renowned Caribbean recording artistes Rihanna, Buju Banton, Sean Paul and Nicki Minaj for their planned assistance in the form of a relief concert later this month.