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Saint Lucia

In St. Lucia, UNICEF provides aid to victims of Hurricane Tomas

© UNICEF/St Lucia/2010
Dylan, 10, Janelle, 3, and Naphia,6, on the site where their house once stood. It was destroyed when Hurricane Tomas struck St Lucia.

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, 11 November 2010 – As the fury of Hurricane Tomas’ savage winds and lashing rain proceeded to tear their home apart, Michelle Francis instinctively swept up her two daughters Naphia, 6, and Janelle, 3, and clutching them both tightly under each arm, managed to escape headlong into the raging storm. 

Once outside, the trio huddled together as the hurricane's punishing onslaught crashed all about them and watched helplessly as a violent mudslide engulfed their house, savagely forcing it into a deep ravine below.

Grateful for life

Despite the horror of the event, and the loss of all their worldly possessions, Michelle is grateful.

© UNICEF/St Lucia/2010
Hurricane Tomas did widespread structural damage in St Lucia. Hundreds of children are homeless and many schools are now being used as temporary shelters.

“I just thank God we made it out in time. We were crouched in a corner with the wind howling when I heard this noise and looked out the window just in time to see the water and mud coming down. All I could do was grab my two angels and run. We saved nothing. All we had is gone but I thank God for life,” Michelle said emotionally.

Now almost one week later Naphia, Janelle and their brother Dylan, 10, who was at another house during the hurricane, are among the hundreds of homeless St. Lucian children currently being sheltered in schools across the country.

Seeking assistance

Like many of the displaced, Michelle has no idea when or how she will be able to rebuild a home.                                        

“Right now it’s just about keeping my children safe and getting from one day to the next,” she says.

© UNICEF/St Lucia/2010
Children at the Ti Rocher Combined School in St Lucia which is serving as an emergency shelter. Hundreds of children have been made homeless by Hurricane Tomas.

With many schools damaged, buried under the mud and sludge or serving as emergency shelters, the 40,000 school-aged children will remain out of school indefinitely as St. Lucian authorities seek international assistance. The official death toll has been confirmed at eight, but authorities are not yet able to give an exact count of the missing.

UNICEF providing support

“I want to get back to school. I miss my friends and school,” says Naphia, a student at the Ti Rocher Combined School which is now serving as a shelter for residents from the nearby community.

The hardest-hit communities in the southern towns of Soufriere and Vieux Fort lost dozens of homes in the mudslides and remain cut off from the rest of the island as major landslides have ripped away vital roads and bridges. This severe blow to the infrastructure is making it difficult for authorities to get a full assessment of the situation there.

In the capital and north of the island, damage to the main water dam has made the situation so dire that the government has declared a water emergency in some parts of the country. UNICEF has responded by sending bottled water. It has also shipped a total of 5,000 boxes of water purification tablets, 1,500 five gallon jerry cans and 100 four gallon collapsible water tanks. In addition, UNICEF is currently training counsellors to help children deal with the psychological impact of the shock they have suffered.



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