Hurricane Tomas: Magdalene’s Story

“I sink. I sink in mud, stones, the river going, I couldn’t see nothing, I started to scream, cry, calling for help, help,” says Magdalene as she recounts the terrifying moments during Hurricane Tomas when floodwaters overtook her.

A mother of three girls, Magdalene, lives in Fond St. Jacques a coastal town in St. Lucia hard hit by the Category 1 hurricane on October 30-31.  Although her house was nowhere near the local river, heavy rains caused the river to overflow and reach all the way to her home in the middle of the night.  Magdalene called out in fear to her daughters but they were already running for their lives. 11-year-old Benita grabbed her five-year-old sister, Trisha and ran out into the darkness. Olivia, 14-years-old and pregnant, had to make a blind jump over the raging river of mud to dry land.

“When I try to get out from my house, something knocked me behind my head and I fell,” says Magdalene.   “The good thing is I fell between a fridge and a setee, but I knock out. My people thought I had come out of the house but all the time the river had already taken the house and I was in it.  But God is for me, Jesus is so great.  The house bounced on a lamppost.”

The structure was thrown under some mango and breadfruit trees where her brother and nephew found her unconscious and risked their lives to pull her to safety.  As she tells her story at a temporary shelter (a local church) where International Medical Corps is providing emergency health services Magdalene breaks down.  Her brush with death left her swollen with cut and bruised legs and a wrenched lower back.  Now she lies on a wooden pew awaiting the results of medical tests, wondering where she and her daughters will now live.

Immediately following Tomas, which caused widespread devastation throughout St. Lucia, International Medical Corps quickly mobilized local staff to begin assessing health needs and providing critical medical care, drinking water and supplies.  Our emergency response team has been working side by side with the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) and is contributing to the process of compiling a quantitative assessment on the damage. In response to the identified needs, International Medical Corps is undertaking a comprehensive package of emergency and recovery services that will address the immediate needs of affected communities in Fond St. Jacques as well as Dennery, Vieux Fort and Soufriere.

Magdalene contemplates her uncertain future as her children adjust to life in the temporary shelter with their neighbors.  She is fearful of leaving her daughters to go out to work after their traumatic experience.

“I don’t mind I lose everything but my life,” she says. “I’m thankful I’m still alive.”

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