Alpha leaves at least 10 dead in Haiti
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – Alpha, the Atlantic season’s record-breaking 22nd named storm, left at least 10 people dead in Haiti and the Dominican Republic before moving north into the Atlantic Ocean and weakening into a tropical depression, authorities said.
The storm also left two dozen people missing in the two countries as mudslides and overflowing rivers flooded streets and destroyed homes, according to officials in both nations on Monday.
Alpha passed over the two nations that share the Caribbean island of His-paniola and rained heavily on ground already saturated from other recent storms, including Hurricane Wilma - which was blamed for 12 deaths in Haiti.
Emergency authorities were still assessing the damage from Alpha and the death toll could rise, Maria Alta Jean Baptiste, the head of Haiti’s civil protection agency, told reporters.
Twenty-three people have been reported missing since the storm in Haiti, including 19 who were swept away by flood waters in the town of Leogane, west of the capital.
Vincentians await date of general election
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent (AP) – Voters in this Caribbean island believe that Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gon-salves will use the anniversary of the island’s political independence from Britain, later this week, to announce a date for general elections.
The elections are constitutionally due by July 2006, with observers saying it could be held in November this year.
Gonsalves has repeatedly said the elections will be held before 31 March, 2006 and the date will be announced with much pomp and style.
St. Vincent & the Grenadines gain-ed its independence from Britain on 27 Oct., 1979.
But political pundits are predicting that Gonsalves would announce the date during the “mother of election ral-lies” in his constituency on Thursday night.
The political consultant with the rul-ing United Labor Party (ULP) Hartley Henry publicly said he had advised Gonsalves to seek re-election soon.
“I have been here for three weeks quietly. I have tested the ground. To-night in front of all of you, I say to you, Prime Minister, do your thing, the country is ready. Give the people what they want,” Henry told Gonsal-ves in front of ULP supporters at a rally on Sunday.
Henry said the ULP administration had delivered on its promises and Gon-salves had impressed regional leaders.
He said he was in the country not only to ensure that ULP is returned to office but also to ensure that the Caribbean retains in a leader position Gonslaves, whom he described as one of the region’s brilliant brains.
Henry worked with the ULP in the 1998 and 2001 general elections and was a pivotal strategist for the party during the 2001 general elections cam-paign.
The Barbadian national made local headlines in 2001 shortly after the Unity Labor Party came to office when he received a contract from the ULP ad-ministration to advise the government on its public relations strategy.
Earthquake shakes Trinidad & Tobago, Grenada
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) – A moderate earthquake shook two Caribbean islands yesterday, but there were no reports of deaths, injuries or damage, authorities said.
The 4.9 magnitude temblor occurr-ed at about 5:20 a.m. and was felt in Trinidad and Grenada, the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Unit reported.
The quake’s epicenter was about 75 miles northwest of the capital, Port-of-Spain, said the United States Geo-logical Survey in Golden, Colorado. It was about 40 miles west of Venezuela, it reported.
The quake was felt throughout north-ern and central Trinidad. In Grenada, the Disaster Management Agency had no reports of an earthquake, but scientists at the University of the West In-dies said they received reports of people feeling the quake in Grenada.
“Given the magnitude and depth of the earthquake, it is unlikely that damage would be caused, but we always urge people in the region to take proper precaution,” said Robert Robertson, head of the Seismic Research Center in Trinidad.
Trinidad & Tobago cancels Guyana’s debt
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) – Trinidad has agreed to cancel 70 per cent of the debt owed by the South American nation of Guyana, an official said recently.
The agreement to forgive US$123 million (euro102 million) of Guyana’s US$175 million (euro146 million) debt came after the cash-strapped na-tion made clear it would be unable to repay the amount, said Conrad Enhill, Trinidad’s junior finance minister.
Guyana, one of the poorest members in the 15-nation Caribbean Com-munity, qualified for debt cancellation under an International Monetary Fund initiative for heavily indebted countries.
The terms of the debt cancellation were established by the Paris Club, an informal group of creditor nations.
Guyana Finance Minister Saisna-rine Kowlessar said the agreement “will go a long way in helping Guyana’s Government to improve its delivery of social services and to fight poverty.”
The agreement marked the second time Trinidad has written off Guyana’s debt. In 1996, Trinidad cancelled two-thirds of the debt owed by Guyana for the construction of an oil facility.
Guyana still owes Trinidad US$53 million (euro44 million), which is sche-duled to be repaid over 15 years.
Lower electricity bills for consumers
CASTRIES, St. Lucia (AP) – The St. Lucia Electricity Services Limited (LUCELEC) says a decision by Hess Oil St. Lucia Limited (HOSLL) to freeze fuel prices has resulted in lower fuel surcharge rates to consumers in the country.
Hess, which owns a storage farm on the island, has decided to freeze its fuel prices at pre-Hurricane Katrina rates, resulting in a saving of EC$1.2 million on fuel charges for LUCELEC.
LUCELEC said the decision by Hess to voluntarily freeze its fuel prices resulted in a Fuel Surcharge Cost Adjustment Factor (FSCAF) of 36.5 cents instead of the 41.3 cents per kilowatt that would have applied without the price freeze.
“The FSCAF mechanism used in a fair and equitable way of determining electricity prices and this system is used extensively throughout the in-dustry,” LUCELEC stated.
“The FSCAF mechanism allows the company to reflect the current price of fuel in its electricity tariffs, so that as the price of crude on the world market goes up and the cost from Hess reflects that increase, the rate goes up accordingly,” LUCELEC’s Managing Director Trevor Louisy, said.
“Conversely as the price on the world market drops or decreases, the rate is reduced as well. What you will find is that in the offer Hess has given us, the price that existed on 26 Aug., will prevail as long as it is lower than the current price and the present agreement remains in effect,” Louisy added.
Hess said that it would absorb the price increase “as long as it remains financially feasible to do so.”