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St Vincent Gov't says millions needed to rebuild

Saturday, December 28, 2013    

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KINGSTOWN, St Vincent (CMC) — The St Vincent and the Grenadines Government says it will need "millions of dollars" to rebuild the country battered by a slow- moving low-level trough that left eight people dead and at least five others missing.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who cut short his Christmas holidays in London, dubbed yesterday "Clean up Kingstown Day".

"As prime minister, I promise you to do even better than I have tried to do. Let us work together; we will recover, we will rehabilitate this country and we will do it in the shortest possible time," he said.

"As difficult as the circumstances are, we are fortunate to be alive. It pains me greatly. Those who have suffered material loss, I am also deeply pained and I give you my word I will do my best to help," Gonsalves said, soon after attending a meeting with disaster and emergency officials after his arrival here on Thursday night.

"We have had a very difficult hit," he said, noting the number of dead and missing, and expressed his condolences to the families and friends of those who were killed.

"We will remember these persons always. When the dust is settled on this, we have to build a monument to those who died," he added.

Gonsalves said the briefing he received indicated "a disaster of a proportion the likes of which we have not seen in living memory".

He said the destruction caused by the weather system, which also affected the neighbouring islands of Dominica and St Lucia, resulted in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars. "Over the next few days, we will get a clearer picture as to the full extent," he said.

The Government requested that activities be kept to a minimum in the capital, Kingstown, yesterday, given the state of the city, while calling on all workers in the essential service to report for duties.

Gonsalves noted, however, that getting to Kingstown from some areas of the country was difficult because of the condition of the road network.

The prime minister said that while his Government does not have upfront all the money needed to complete repairs, it was willing to talk to bankers to see if contractors' overdrafts could be increased and interest rates reduced. The Government, he said, was prepared to act as a guarantor for the release of funds to expedite the works.

"I want to say how pleased I am that Vincentians have worked together at this time of natural disaster to help one another," Gonsalves said, adding that the weather was totally unexpected.

He said that when he first heard of the scale and magnitude of the disaster he was "driven to tears" and given the experience of April 2011 when the country faced a major flood, he is anticipating extensive damage to roads, homes and buildings.

Gonsalves said that while the assessment was being done, the nation had to remember the many people who have lost houses as well as the 70 people in emergency shelters.

While he focused on the work to be done in his own country, Prime Minister Gonsalves expressed solidarity with St Lucia and Dominica, which were also affected by the flood rains. He also expressed solidarity with Brazil, Mexico, the United Kingdom and Canada, which experienced extreme weather events recently.

"Let us lift ourselves, let us work together, let us remember that we must love one another, let us pray to Almighty God to make us better, let us endeavour to be better to one another, let us in this very small country stop all senseless backbiting and fighting over nothing, let us get rid of all our vanities as is humanly possible, let us look out for one another," Gonsalves said.

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