Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony, at the press conference on December 31, 2013, on the damage assessment of the Christmas Eve disaster, was asked to compare and give his opinion on which system was worse, Hurricane Tomas or the Christmas trough. He replied: “It is difficult to say which one was worse, as it is evident that some communities fared worse during Tomas, and others during the trough. However, I believe Tomas had weakened a number of things like bridges and as a result, this latest trough with all its water, did so much damage. So it is difficult to make a proper comparison”.
This explanation is definitely logical and one would concur with Dr. Anthony’s remarks. Along with once again exposing our country’s vulnerability to disasters, this latest extreme weather has also exposed the incompetence of some officials, whose plans of action and statements we rely upon heavily and have a huge impact on our lives.
While Saint Lucians toil in the aftermath of stinking mud and debris, it’s a three-way blame game of ‘he said-she said-he said’ between the government of Saint Lucia, the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) and the Government Information Service (GIS), on the issue of being unable to correctly predict this latest trough and the information that was presented to Saint Lucians.
Under scrutiny has also been the Water and Sewage Company (WASCO) who, despite working around the clock across the island since the deluge, after two weeks are still unable to deliver pipe-borne water to the people of Micoud North.
Areas like Anse La Raye that suffered most damage as a result of the trough, already have water flowing into their taps, when the Micoud area was supposed to have been one of the first to receive water. According to a WASCO press release on the GIS website dated December 26, 2013, it is clearly stated that: “Micoud North and South suffered extensive damage. WASCO crews have been working assiduously and by all reports, these constituencies should receive water this weekend”.
The following day December 27, another press release was issued: “In Micoud, all intakes are clogged and raw water and transmission lines were damaged. The intakes are now being cleared and temporary construction is underway. In Patience and Errard, intakes are clogged, access compromised, and raw water lines damaged”.
Are these two statements contradictory? Which one should we have heeded? Was it a communication problem within WASCO, or was the first statement a means of preventing the residents of Micoud North from panicking?
The STAR has been through the communities in Micoud North and one thing is certain; none of them have received any pipe-borne water. Adding to this monumental headache is the distribution of water by the Water and Sewage Company.
Only last Saturday, a 1000 gallon water tank was placed in all of the communities in the area with the exception of Malgretoute which has two tanks. One tank, seriously? Considering the number of persons that inhabit each community and the fact that they have been without water for nearly two weeks?
In addition, persons had no idea when these tanks were filled with water and made available for use. In Praslin the water tank was filled on Sunday night and persons were unaware until those who live near the tank noticed and word spread through some parts of the community. Did this problem arise as a result of poor communication by WASCO, given that back to back press releases contradicted themselves?
Adding to the distress of dehydrated residents, each community received one water truck on Saturday and one on Sunday, but because most people were not aware that water was being distributed, those who were able to fill up were those who live in the area where the trucks were parked. This became a huge problem, particularly on Saturday.
This latest development has residents of Micoud North questioning whether WASCO is responsible for water delivery by truck, or has the company awarded contracts to private persons? And what are the motives of those who are responsible? Is the water distributed to persons who are friends and acquaintances first? Or like many other things, is the situation being manipulated according to political bias by ‘party hacks’?
But let’s not venture down those lines. Instead let’s just hope that going forward, everything is done to restore pipe borne water to Micoud North’s thirsty residents as soon as possible.
Editor’s Note: As we were going to press on Tuesday we received a press release from WASCO (and confirmation from Kerwin’s mother) stating that residents of Patience, Mon Repos and environs are enjoying the sweet sound of water flowing through their taps as the supply to these areas has been restored.