The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Relief Steering Committee of New York last Saturday evening handed over a check amounting to US$20,000 to Foreign Affairs Minister Camillo Gonsalves to be delivered to the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO).
The sum is a significant part of the monies raised by the New York group to assist the homeland in the wake of last Christmas freak storm that left at least seven people dead and a trail of destruction primarily in the north of the country.
The committee, chaired by New York Consul General Selmon Walters, a former government minister, disclosed that a total of US$34,500.80 was raised in the relief effort and that there were expenses amounting to US$5,671, leaving a balance of US$28,829.80.
With US$20,000 dispatched to NEMO, the committee said US$8,829.80 remains in the account.
The committee told a town hall meeting at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn that, to date, four 40 ft. containers of supplies were dispatched to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The committee said its efforts are on-going, thanking all Vincentians, organizations, businesspersons, musicians, friends and supporters for assisting in the relief effort.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told the meeting, via a telephone link from his hospital bed in Cuba, that the unusual Christmas storm cause damage to the tune of 17 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
He said, since the storm, his administration was able to raise $280 million, inclusive of concessionary grants from the World Bank and “a number of different countries.”
The Vincentian leader said 10-12,000 nationals were directly affected by the storm that caused significant “damages and loses to the housing stock.”
He said the government has since built and refurbished several houses, from FitzHughes, a village on the outskirts of Chateaubelair, to Fancy in the north of the country.
Camillo Gonsalves, who delivered the keynote address at the town hall meeting, said: “Any conversation with St. Vincent and the Grenadines has to begin with the floods at Christmas Eve into Christmas Day.
“We got three Decembers’ worth of rain in three hours, and the devastation was tremendous,” the foreign affairs minister said.
“We lost water, we lost electricity, the hospital (Milton Cato Memorial in Kingstown, the capital) was flooded, the multi-million dollar CT scan was gone,” he added. “Agriculture was devastated. People who had crops, no longer had crops, and the forests were destroyed…It was one in a life time event that hit St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”