Friday, November 05, 2010

Tomas devastated agricultural industry

Tomas completely devastated the country’s agricultural industry late Saturday evening/early Sunday morning and left over a thousand people in hurricane shelters, primarily in the north eastern and north western portions of mainland St. Vincent.

Disaster areas have been declared from Park Hill to Sandy Bay and Owia on the Windward side and from Belle Isle to Fitz Hughes on the Leeward side. Consequently, USAID has immediately provided US$50,000 to the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO), to deal with immediate local purchases for disaster management.  

At a press conference on Monday, the Prime Minister said he is soliciting the support from the head of the US Mission to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean to back an application by SVG for an emergency loan from the World Bank. 

He said the Taiwanese have immediately offered emergency aid of US$200,000, which is separate from a request for assistance in terms of reconstruction.

Agriculture devastated
Preliminary assessment of damage done to the agricultural sector is EC$67M. Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, in a broadcast to the nation on Sunday evening said: “You go about and you don’t see any banana or breadfruit tree standing…. It’s awful ….. assessment is that the agricultural damage is in excess of EC$67M.”

He said there was 100% devastation in Agricultural Region Three, which stretches from Peruvian Vale to Orange Hill. “Over one hundred banana packing sheds lost their roofs. We had tremendous damage to breadfruit trees, citrus, coconuts, golden apples, avocado pears, nutmeg, cinnamon, pigeon peas ... small ruminants, some cattle, and of course, poultry.”

“The estimate done to the damage to the agricultural industry includes: bananas – 2,180 acres – EC$26.2M; plantains – 1,242 acres – EC $14.2M; fruit tree crops – an estimated EC$18.1; condiments and spices EC$1.2; vegetables and legumes an estimated 23 acres – 3.7; and infrastructure – 3.6M giving a total of 67.2M,” Dr. Gonsalves said in the Sunday broadcast, adding that more estimates would have to be done with respect to fisheries.

Housing and infrastructure
In his initial address after the hurricane, the Prime Minister said preliminary reports indicated 600 houses damaged within category one to category four, ranging from minor damage to serious damage. He said seven government buildings have been damaged.

Meanwhile, home owners have reported damaged roofs, some blown completely off, in areas in the outskirts of capital Kingstown such as Edinboro, Ottley Hall and Cane Garden, which are outside of the declared disaster areas.

A preliminary assessment meeting at NEMO on Sunday, involving all the various departments and state entities relevant to the reconstruction of the country, indicated severe damage was done to roads, particularly infrastructure of feeder roads, which would encounter expense on major reconstruction of back walls, culverts, bridges, etc.; telephone and internet services were not severely affected, except for problems north of the Rabacca Dry River.

Dr. Gonsalves said the main roads are passable but a lot of clean up still has to be done, which would cost an estimated EC$750,000 to EC$1M.

Water and electricity were severely affected in most parts of mainland St. Vincent, but at press time, both services were well within the 60% range of normalcy.

No deaths
Prime Minister Gonsalves that there were no deaths as a result of Hurricane Tomas but there were a few injuries. In his broadcast in the immediate wake of Hurricane Tomas, the Prime Minister expressed concern about the well being of two fishermen from the Stubbs area, who went to sea on Friday morning and could not be accounted for by Sunday evening. He, however, expressed relief at a Monday press conference that the fishermen were found at Balleceaux, one of the many uninhabited islands off St. Vincent.

He said that generally the community has responded well. In this regard, he thanked the SVG Circuit of the Seventh Adventist for providing 200 blankets and C. K Greaves and Co. for providing 500 loaves of bread.

Pointing out that there were 1,194 persons in shelters across the country, the Prime Minister stated that several shelters are overcrowded. He also disclosed that the shelters need about 2,000 comfort kits and plastic sheeting, a lot of plywood and galvanize, about 1,000 blankets, some kerosene lanterns, roofing materials and water jugs.

Special Committees
Committees were formed at a special cabinet meeting on Monday. These include, a Physical Infrastructure Committee to cover the assessment and needs for reconstruction. This committee is chaired by the Director General of Finance and Planning. It includes the Minister of Housing and the Minister of Transport and Works.

A special committee has also been set up on the rehabilitation of agriculture. This is chaired by the Minister and includes important officials in the ministry of agriculture including WIFA and WIFRESH (formerly WIBDECO) representatives.

Prime Minister Gonsalves took to the roads on Sunday last, less than a day after the passage of Hurricane Tomas.  He made regular calls and reports via the National Broadcasting Corporation/Radio St. Vincent, which stayed on air round the clock during and immediately after the passage of the hurricane.

Residents were able to call-in with reports of damages, and non-resdient nationals were able to contact with their families here.

Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace, in a broadcast carried on NICE Radio called on citizens to  keep calm, listen keenly for any new developments and to follow the directives of the national authorities, including NEMO.

From The Vincentian