First, it was the COVID-19 pandemic, then, there was ash from the La Soufriere Volcano. Now, Government is being called upon to assist victims of an overnight ‘freak storm’ that flattened homes, damaged roofs, downed trees and disrupted utilities across northern and central portions of the island.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley, after a day-long tour of the most-heavily impacted areas, promised that persons most severely affected by Thursday morning’s severe thunderstorm “shall not walk alone”.
In fact, she revealed that persons have already started receiving materials for the rebuilding of their homes, as authorities from Government agencies surveyed the damage.
During her comprehensive report from Ilaro Court, the Prime Minister spoke of over a dozen instances of severe damage that occurred in Fruitful Hill and Lower Parks, St Joseph, Trents, St Lucy, Orange Hill, St James, Glenburnie and Zores, St John, White Hill, St Andrew and Bayfield, St Philip.
Some of Government’s educational institutions including the Grantley Adams Secondary School, The Lodge School and Alleyne School all suffered damage.
The unusual weather system that dumped more than five inches of rain, 40 km/winds, and almost continuous lightning also resulted in power and water outages across northern sections of the island.
“The reality is that in all of this, we have to continue to find the means to ensure that our people do not walk alone,” declared the Prime Minister.
“This has been a difficult 18 months starting from January 2020, from the pandemic, to the ashfall that hit us in the beginning of April and to this event, which is a freak storm.
“We’ve gone literally and tried to reach out to every single house that has been reported damaged through the Department of Emergency Services. Minister [of Housing, Lands and Maintenance] Dr. [William] Duguid, and the Ministry of Housing have been literally on the road all day with us and they will work with the UDC [Urban Development Commission] and [RDC Rural Development Commission].
“In fact, I think a number of people have already started receiving materials. In some instances, people just want materials; in some instances, we have to do the repairs. In some instances, we have houses completely lost and therefore it is a case of ensuring that persons can have some place to stay while ensuring at the same time that we can rebuild,” the Prime Minister said.
She added that many more reports were coming in about the losses of many household items.
Asked about the overall response of the Government agencies to the “freak” incident, Mottley replied: “I wouldn’t say it was perfect, but it was significantly better than what it was in the last two to three years and I think I started earlier to point out that the infrastructural work that we are doing is paying dividends in being able to minimise the level of flooding.”
For the Prime Minister, the events are another reminder of the need for residential roofs that are more structurally sound.
“We’ve been saying and luckily we’ve had some sessions in October 2019 where we had a national consultation on changing how we do roofs in this country and also in encouraging those whose roofs can be strengthened to either get the hurricane straps, shorten the overhang and wherever possible if you need to replace the roofs, let us do so, because we fear that if Barbados should be hit by a real hurricane, category one or certainly category two, that we will have significant roof damage in this country,” Mottley concluded. ([email protected])