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Hurricane Tomas destroys lives in St Lucia

© UNICEF Barbados and East Caribbean/2010/Patrick Knight
Children at the Ti Rocher Combined School which is serving as an emergency shelter.

St. Lucia, November 8th., 2010 - Michelle Francis clutched her two daughters Naphia, 6, and Janelle, 3, and ran for dear life as Hurricane Tomas’s furious winds and lashing rain began to tear apart their home.


The trio made it out just in time to see the place they had called home on the outskirts of the capital Castries in St. Lucia drop 25 feet into a deep ravine. The mudslide which destroyed the house took with it all their possessions and exposed them to the onslaught of the latest weather system to impact the Eastern Caribbean.


“I just thank God  we made it out in time ... we were huddled 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,” says Michelle.


“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.”


Homeless families living in shelters

Now almost one week later Naphia, Janelle and their 10-year-old brother Dylan, who was at another house during the hurricane, are among hundreds of St. Lucian children who have been made homeless. They are being sheltered in schools across the 238 square-mile country which managed to survive the effects of the hurricane.


Like many of the displaced St Lucians, 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.


School life disrupted

With many schools damaged or still under mud and sludge or serving as emergency shelters, the 49,000 school-aged children are out of school indefinitely as St. Lucian authorities seek international assistance to recover from the hurricane which has seen Government declaring a national state of emergency.


“I want to get back to school. I miss my friends and school,” says Naphia, a Grade 3 student at the Ti Rocher Combined School which is now serving as a shelter for residents from the nearby community who lost houses during the hurricane.


Widespread devastation

The most affected communities are the southern towns Soufriere and Vieux Fort, where major landslides ripped away vital roads and bridges and mudslides washed away dozens of homes. Soufriere remains cut off from the rest of the island and accessible only by sea, making it difficult for authorities to get a full assessment of the situation there. However, there are pockets of devastation all throughout the mountainous country.


The official death toll has been confirmed at 8, as disaster officials hold out hope that families trapped in houses which vanished survive the ordeal. For now government is listing them as “unaccounted” for, but authorities are not yet in a position to give an exact count of the missing.


Large parts of the island are still without running water and electricity. In the capital and north of the island damage to the main water dam has made the situation so dire that government has declared a water emergency in some parts of the country.


Like Naphia, Janelle, Dylan and their mother Janelle, the government and people of St. Lucia are hoping that help comes sooner rather than later.


For more information:

Patrick Knight, pknight@unicef.org, UNICEF Barbados and Eastern Caribbean

Tamar Hahn, thahn@unicef.org, UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean




UNICEF is on the ground in over 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.


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