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Hurricane damage on Union Island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. (API Photo)

Hurricane Beryl leaves death and destruction in SVG

July 2, 2024

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, CMC – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves Monday night confirmed that there had been one death associated with the passage of Hurricane Beryl earlier that day, saying also “there could be more fatalities” on the Grenadine island of Bequia.

The Grenadines include 32 islands, the largest of which are Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, and Union. Some of the smaller islands are privately owned.

“Sadly it has been reported…we do not know all the details that one person died. There may well be more fatalities, we are not yet sure,” said Gonsalves in an address to the nation, describing the hurricane as “devastating and  dangerous,”  leaving in its wake “immense destruction, pain, suffering across our nation at this hour.

”The faces of men and women are strained and anxious. Hundreds of families are uncertain of their future in respect of their housing.

“Union Island has been devastated. The reports I have received indicate that 90 per cent of the houses have been severely damaged or destroyed,” he said, adding that many buildings including the airport building have had their roofs destroyed.

He said while there have not yet been preliminary reports of the damage caused to the other Grenadine islands “but we expect that in those areas it is  similar condition”

He said in Bequia there has been damage but not to the extent of the southern Grenadines and that there are hundreds of houses on St. Vincent which has been severely damaged or destroyed.

“Roofs are gone, government buildings, especially least two belonging to churches where you have had severe damage and of course churches. I have been advised that the Kingstown Baptiste Church had its roof severely damaged.

“We are at a point where we have to work together to rebuild and we have to start urgently. We are going to re-open tomorrow Government facilities. I am asking the businesses to open,” Gonsalves said, acknowledging that not all employees will be able to come to work given that they may have suffered damages to their homes during the passage of the storm.

Gonsalves said that the island is still without electricity and here is a water shortage situation, but that he has been assured by the public utility companies that every effort will be made to rectify the problem as soon as possible.

He told the nation that the reconstruction exercise begins from Tuesday and that he has had encouraging support from regional countries as Kingstown starts the rebuilding exercise.

“Despite the devastation situation, for example in Union Island …we still have to thank almighty God for all his blessings. One reported death. It appears as though overwhelming our people have responded and reacted in a very responsible manner,” he said.

“Let us just stay inside, we have endured today… we can enjoy the night and tomorrow we get ith the conviction and commitment to rebuild our individual lives and our families…and to rebuild our country.”

The Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Beryl is moving over the south eastern Caribbean with maximum sustained  winds of 150 miles per hour (mph).

It is 125 miles north west of Grenada and the NHC said Beryl is moving toward the west-northwest near 21 mph.

“The center of Beryl will continue moving away from the southern Windward Islands tonight and move quickly westward to west-northwestward during the next few days.

“On the forecast track, the center of Beryl will move across the southeastern and central Caribbean Sea tonight through Tuesday and is forecast to pass near Jamaica on Wednesday,” it added.

“Beryl is a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane Wind Scale. Fluctuations in strength are likely during the next day or so, but Beryl is expected to remain an extremely dangerous major hurricane as its moves over the eastern Caribbean.”

The NHC said that some weakening is expected in the central Caribbean by midweek, though Beryl is forecast to remain a hurricane.

The NHC said that hurricane conditions are possible on Jamaica by Wednesday and that tropical storm conditions will continue in the southern Windward Islands over the next few hours.

Gonsalves said the government has “some resources” in the Contingency Fund and “the rainy day has come and we have to use some or all of it “

But he acknowledged it will not be sufficient and “so we have to raise other monies.

“Unfortunately, the way the world is there are very few countries and institutions which will give you grants and the grants are very very small and so we will have to borrow some money…on concessional terms,” Gonsalves said.

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