Hurricane Tomas hits islands of the Caribbean

Originating southeast of the Windward Islands on October 29th, 2010 Tomas rapidly developed into a Category-1 hurricane bringing excessive rainfall and harsh winds to parts of the eastern Caribbean. Although a number of countries issued tropical storm and/or hurricane warnings (including Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Martinique, Barbados, Dominica), the brunt of damage thus far, has been concentrated in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Saint Lucia.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines has seen damage to approximately 1200 homes (14 destroyed), disruptions to power supplies, and devastation to their agricultural sector. There were no casualties reported and conditions appear to be stabilizing.  However conditions in Saint Lucia, where rainfall measured >500 mm (21”) in 24 hrs, require urgent attention.   

Initial reports from Saint Lucia indicate seven (7) confirmed causalities as major flooding and landslides displaced hundreds of individuals, damaged road and bridge infrastructure, destroyed several water supply facilities, disrupted electricity and telecommunication services, and left some communities completely isolated (e.g. Fond St. Jacques near Soufriere).

The Ministries of Health of the affected countries report damages to road network, health facilities, and water supply. In Saint Lucia for example, the Dennery Hospital has been decommissioned due to damage and Soufriere hospital is limited to pedestrian access. PAHO is participating in an inter-agency Rapid Needs Assessment Team (RNAT) in Saint Lucia to assess the country’s current situation. Preliminary reports highlight the needs for the provision of safe drinking water to ensure continuity of health delivery services and re-establishing critical services offered by the now decommissioned Dennery hospital. Prevention of outbreaks from water/food, vector borne and skin illness is also a priority.

Although Hurricane Tomas has been downgraded to a tropical storm, it is expected the system will re-strengthen as it moves through the Caribbean Sea. Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, and the Cayman Islands are potentially vulnerable. PAHO is continuing to monitor the situation.