Tomas devastates St. Lucian community

St. Lucia is still reeling from the aftermath of Hurricane Tomas, which ravaged the island on October 30, with powerful winds of 90 mph and torrential rains.What started out as a tropical depression quickly developed into a category one hurricane within hours, leaving the island with extensive damage. Twelve people were confirmed dead and many remain unfound.

Homes were washed away in the deluge, along with a wipeout of the lucrative banana industry and the destruction of major bridges.

Massive flooding and strong winds have also resulted in the loss of power to several parts of the island and a lack of drinking water.

Landslides and fallen trees have left several roadways impassable, causing many parts of the island to become completely inaccessible.

Prime Minister Stephenson King declared a state of emergency and assesses the damage to be approximately 100 million EC dollars (37 million US).

One of the hardest hit areas is the town of
Soufriere, which was declared a disaster zone. The popular tourist paradise is now almost completely unrecognizable.

The news has been devastating for the large St. Lucian community at Grambling State University, several of whom have been unable to contact their families.

One student is known to have lost his family home and many await word on the well-being of their relatives.

Junior Biology major Michelle Prospere is a native of Fond St. Jacques, Soufriere, which was left in shambles.

“I am aching to hear my parents’ voice or something to let me know that they are ok,” she says anxiously.

Prospere described her hometown as being in a deplorable condition and said it is a complete transformation from the vibrant community she grew up in.

“Right now we need all the assistance we can get because there are families who are homeless, no clothes, no shoes, no food and there is no way to get to them.”

Like many of her counterparts in Grambling, she feels helpless being so far away from home, unable to assist physically. “It is depressing.”

The fishing village of Dennery, which recently suffered heavy flooding, has also been left demolished by the wrath of Tomas.

Senior Accounting major Flavia Stanley reported that several of her relatives and neighbors have lost their homes. “I am still in shock over this,” she says. “We have had other floods and storms, but nothing like this.”

Miss Grambling State University, Solange N. Sayers, a St. Lucian native whose family was also affected, is actively trying to get assistance for the island.

The first step was approaching the school administration to raise an awareness of the situation and garner their support.

A call center has been set up at the Office of Institutional Advancement to allow the students an opportunity to contact their families for the rest of the week.

There are also plans to have donation booths set up at homecoming events as well as a drive at the game on Saturday.

Sayers approached the Student Government Association to help host a Midnight Breakfast where attendees can offer their support.

Plans are underway to collect clothing, toiletries, and food supplies to send off as soon as possible. Boxes for donations are currently being set up in various academic buildings and residential halls.

Sayers also implored her countrymen to keep supporting each other. “There is strength in numbers and if we have an effective support system, then we can move forward.