If you know anything about Caribbean weather, you know that in a few days it can go from a paradise lost to a hell found. Perhaps you have heard about the devastation and tragedy in St. Lucia caused by Hurricane Tomas. Perhaps you haven't. Maybe you've been so distracted by the election news, the numerous bomb threats, and the San Francisco Giants winning the World Series that any news of the tiny island of St. Lucia has not hit your news radar at all.
I'm here to help put it on the radar for you.
I must admit that I have personal interest in St. Lucia. Does my passion for sharing the facts of what is going on down there stem from that personal interest? In part, yes. But my heart-strings are always triggered by devastation, whether by Nature or Man.
I have friends living in Soufriere, St. Lucia, on the south-west side of the island. Their names are Monica and Martin Charles and they own Crystals.
My husband and I were fortunate enough to choose their Calabash bungalow to stay in 2007 when we got married and honeymooned for two weeks. We fell in love with the gorgeous views of the Pitons, the lush mountainous landscape, and the amazing Lucians we met everywhere on the island. Most of all, we developed a relationship with Monica and Martin and have kept touch over the past few years.
Tomas has hit the island of St. Lucia hard, specifically targeting the town of Soufriere. Soufriere is the oldest town in St. Lucia, fought over several times by the French and the English. It is a town of fishermen, hospitality workers, and shopkeepers. It is full of mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles, and precious children. It is surrounded by rainforest, mineral springs, and some incredible vistas. Now, in the words of the St. Lucian Prime Minister Stephenson King, it looks like a war zone.
The town of Soufriere is nearly impossible to reach except by boat. The roads leading into town are either washed away or covered by landslides or mudslides. There has been a road cleared to allow emergency personnel in and the French and British militaries are providing rations and medical supplies to the residents of Soufriere and Fond St. Jacques. There is no electricity and no fresh water. Entire homes have been covered by mountainsides collapsing, including Livity Arts Studio. I've been there. My husband and I have a wooden wall hanging from there and we bought our parents local gifts of coconut husk bird houses. I remember a young girl making beaded jewelry while we there. Now the house is gone, crushed by a landslide, with the family still in it. Livity Arts Studio is located above Crystals on the mountain, past a sharp switchback when heading out of Soufriere through Columbette.
Are my friends okay? I have no idea. All day long I have been contacting as many people that I can find on this incredible world wide web. All I have learned is that Soufriere is indeed devastated. No word on Monica and Martin. I will continue trying to make contact with someone that knows something. I will not give up hope.
The current situation is that areas in the South and West are still largely impassible by car and only reachable by boat. A national disaster has been declared. The John Compton Dam is not functioning due to a landslide, and as this is the main source of water for the people of St. Lucia there is strict water rationing in effect. Law enforcement will not allow the use of water for anything other than drinking and meal preparation. Residents are being warned to not consume dead livestock because it may contain disease. Standing water and ditch water should not be used for drinking as it too may contain disease. All water should be boiled before use and hands should be washed before making meals. Some areas of the island still do not have electricity and it cannot be predicted when it will be restored.
There is going to be a benefit for the people of St. Lucia on November 7, 2010 in Brooklyn, New York. If you can make it, please bring non-perishables and other necessities such as toothbrushes and soap.
I will update this post as I gather more information on other aid efforts going on for the people of St. Lucia.
Follow Amber DeGrace on Twitter: www.twitter.com/amberdegrace