Three weeks after the passage of the Fiona storm in Guadeloupe, running water has not yet returned to all the homes of this archipelago of the Antilles whose water distribution network was already in poor condition.
In Capesterre-Belle-Eau, the rains had reached more than 500 mm in 24 hours and the pipe of one of the largest catchments - supplying almost all of the island of Grande-Terre - had been broken and carried away by the river in flood.
The pipeline "only supplies some of the inhabitants" of the town, one of the largest in Guadeloupe with 17,741 inhabitants in 2019, explains Corinne Faure, communication officer for the Syndicat mixte de gestion de l'eau et de sanitation in Guadeloupe (SMGEAG).
Three weeks after the passage of Fiona on the night of September 16 to 17, this union declares to have "made emergency repairs", but is now considering "massive work".
All over the island, "Post-Fiona" water towers - consisting of cutting off the water in one district to supply another - are organized to supply the different parts of the island in turn.
A situation however well known to the inhabitants of Guadeloupe, because the local network, largely dilapidated, has not been the subject of major work for nearly 40 years and according to estimates, between 65% and 85% of the water would be lost between capture and distribution.
Design offices are working to determine the scope and schedule of the work to be carried out, which everyone knows will last several weeks, at a minimum.
Many emergency works have already been carried out by the Region and the Department.
The latter announced Wednesday, October 5 "to mobilize its strategic stock" which it "has for agricultural irrigation works", in order to "strengthen the SMGEAG support process".
On the users' side, resourcefulness takes precedence: recovery of rainwater, filling of bottles when the water comes back, even punctually.
Water packs and mobile units
Bottle distributions are organized "with the collaboration of Civil Security" according to a specific schedule, notes the prefecture in a press release.
The last weekend of September, "ten pallets were distributed in support of the inhabitants of Saint-François", or more than 7,560 liters.
For the island of La Désirade, two pallets were transported using the Dragon helicopter, according to the same source.
Between September 28 and October 3, nearly 450 pallets of water bottles were distributed, according to press releases from the prefecture.
Drinking water is also supplied by a mobile seawater desalination unit in Pointe-à-Pitre.
In South Basse-Terre, the Red Cross regional intervention platform made drinking water more than 70,000 liters distributed in four towns where water has gradually returned thanks to initial works.
However, "we are not yet out of the emergency", underlines a prefectural source.
Water Pollution Alert
In addition to water shortages, there are regulatory restrictions on consumption: on 1 October, the health authorities launched a water pollution alert due to "the presence of aluminum" in large quantities in the municipalities of the Désirade, Sainte-Anne and Saint-François.
In the most affected municipalities, however, the crisis "HQs" are closing one after the other.
“People are starting to resume their lives,” notes André Atallah, the mayor of the commune of Basse-Terre, where the storm killed one person.
In the district of Rivière-des-Pères, "disaster victims have been rehoused with their families", still indicates the city councilor.
About twenty others must be relocated.
They will be able to benefit from the emergency relocation fund for six months, "but after that, other solutions will have to be found", notes André Atallah, who must also manage infrastructure problems: a bridge, the main axis of Basse-Terre , has been very weakened.
“We reopened it to light vehicles after the works, but that may not be enough”.
Experts have been commissioned to give an opinion on the condition of 40 bridges on the island, which suffered the onslaught of water.
Their report has not yet been released.
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