September 27, 2023

A preliminary damage assessment report for Tropical Storm Bret which passed over the north of St Vincent last week revealed that in addition to reports of houses being damaged, crops on the island were also heavily impacted.  

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves says Bret’s impact largely affected northeastern communities and some in the northwest, with 15 persons currently housed at the Owia Government School which is being used as an emergency shelter.  

The island’s agriculture sector was not spared from Bret. Officers from the agriculture division conducted a rapid preliminary crop damage assessment, in which major impact was observed in northern locations and closer to coastal areas.  

Gonsalves says the bulk of the damage in that area was in plantains (80 per cent).  

On the Leeward side of the country, tomatoes and sweet peppers were mostly damaged, though plantains and bananas were also affected. In addition, there was minimal damage done to fruit trees such as avocadoes, mangoes and breadfruit.  

The prime minister gave a further on the crops that were destroyed:  

  • Plantains- 17 acres assessed- 66 per cent damaged- $92,000 in damage 

  • Bananas- 6 ½ acres assessed- 73 per cent damaged- $33,000 in damage 

  • Pigeon peas- few acres assessed- half damaged-$45,000 in damage  

  • Tomatoes- 3 ½ acres assessed- 85 per cent damaged  

  • Sweet peppers- 1 acre and ¼ assessed- 80 per cent damaged 

The prime minister says the total damage for the crops amounts to close to $250,000. He says while it may not sound like a lot of money in losses, if you are a farmer and lost 66 per cent of your plantains, that is a big blow.  

The passage of Tropical Storm Bret also affected houses in St Vincent. The prime minister says the Ministry of Transport and Works together with the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) commenced damage assessments.  

He says NEMO received 113 reports of damages to housing structures thus far, with the Ministry of Works assessing 61 structures and the Ministry of National Mobilisation and Security conducting 48  social assessments thus far.  

Of the 61 houses assessed by the Ministry of Works:  

  • 36 were Level 1 (lowest level of damage)  

  • 14 were Level 2 

  • 4 were Level 3 (substantial repairs required/possible replacement) 

  • 6 were Level 4 (will have to be replaced) 

There was one false report of damage. 

Gonsalves says the damage caused by Tropical Storm Bret will still be costly as he explains that if 10 houses need to be replaced (average house costing $150,000), that figure could be around $1.5 million, not forgetting that money is still needed for repairs for other homes. He says it’s a bill that could come close to 2 million dollars.  

The prime minister says the homes listed under Levels 3 and 4 will require urgent assistance.  

While most persons have been able to return home, there are currently 15 persons in shelters- six male adults, six female adults and three children under the age of 18.  

Meanwhile, with respect to the social assessments conducted by the Ministry of National Mobilisation and Security, the greatest need identified by persons according to the data shows 83 per cent require housing repairs.  

A total of 48 households were assessed which comprise 147 persons. From this number, six persons are disabled, three are elderly and 59 are children. The prime minister says this means half of the persons in these households are vulnerable.  

Gonsalves on the overall situation says he is thankful nobody was injured during Tropical Storm Bret and is urging Vincentians to continue to be on their guard during the hurricane season and ensure they have a family disaster plan.  

The prime minister was speaking on the Face- to-Face programme on Wednesday. 

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