The Caribbean islands hit by Hurricane Tomas last weekend are counting the recovery costs, which are turning out to be much more than some earlier estimated. Now, the pressure is on for overseas relief aid and assistance.
In just two days, St. Lucia's Prime Minister Stephenson King has multiplied five-fold his government's assessment of damage left by Tomas, from EC $100 million to EC $500 million (US $1 = EC $2.71) as the full extent of the damage continues to unravel.
Addressing reporters Thursday, the prime minister said the damage was becoming more apparent by the day, thus the continuing revision of damage estimates. But he also said he was "very encouraged" by "positive responses" being received so far.
He said aid had already been pledged by the USA, the UK, France and Panama, while fellow leaders of several Caribbean states are also in touch with him.
He also confirmed that the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard had called St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves and that she had also spoken to St. Lucia's Foreign Affairs Minister, Rufus Bousquet, regarding the hurricane.
The Australian leader pledged EC $200,000 in immediate support for the affected islands, saying her government was also ready to give more.
According to Prime Minister King, the government "has so far been receiving several envelopes of assistance" in small but immediate and appreciable proportions.
The island is also receiving US $3.2 million Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Management Fund (CCRIF), recently established to assist states affected by disasters of any kind after ravages by Hurricanes Dean and Ivan, over a year ago.
Foreign Minister Bousquet said on national radio Thursday that he will do all to impress donor countries to help, including Venezuela, to assist. He also said he was "even willing travel to Libya", if he had to.
St. Lucia's damage assessors put the number of affected homes at 10,000.
St. Vincent's NEMO reported 1,200 homes were damaged or destroyed on the neighbouring multi-island state. The relief agency also said 1,200 persons were in shelters during the hurricane, but by Thursday the number had been reduced to 680.
Officials in St Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Barbados were originally concerned about oil-rich Trinidad & Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar's earlier indication that help from Port of Spain would only come at a cost – resulting benefits to Trinidad & Tobago.