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78-year-old Chateaubelair resident waiting for some help

78-year-old Chateaubelair resident waiting for some help
ALBERT COLLIS standing in his broken down house.

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WHILE SEVERAL PERSONS evacuated from the North Leeward communities of Chateaubelair and Fitz-Hughes when the volcano blew in April, dozens more chose to stay behind and brave the heavy ashfall in their own homes.

Albert Collis, 78, is one of the many individuals who chose to stay behind but what he did not anticipate was that his home and business would collapse with him inside.

“I was here the night when it broke down. I was inside. I came out the first time, went by a friend…ask him to stay ‘til the morning. He say no. I say ‘the place breaking down’. He say no. After I came in, I open that door and when I get inside, the whole thing just came right down,” Collis told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday.

The collapse happened as a result of the weight of ash on his roof. Luckily, the Chateaubelair resident was not hurt when the roof caved in. At his residence, the 78-year-old ran a shop at the front, which sold chicken and chips, souse and other food on occasion. His room, kitchen and bathroom were at the back of the structure.

Today, some contents from the inside of the house can be seen protruding from some areas of the walls, which are now off kilter. The roof has completely collapsed in other areas and heavy ash can be seen on the floors inside.

Collis said he has lost everything, including his stove, deep freeze and speakers.

“I’m just praying to get back something. I can’t tell you my feelings because I was comfortable…but could’ve been me gone,” he said. “Anybody can tell you it was nice, it was real nice. I tell you, I pray God I get back this place here.”

Though he is currently staying with a friend, the Chateaubelair resident said he would much prefer to be in his own home, which has been standing since 1998.

In addition to this loss, he has also lost crops that he planted on lands surrounding his home. This included plantains and peanuts.

“They was to reap the same month and everything went down, but I can’t do nothing to it,” he said.

The government has pledged to help persons whose homes have been severely damaged as a result of the explosive eruptions of the Soufriere volcano.

Collis, like several others in his community, is looking forward to picking up the pieces of his life and moving forward as the relief efforts continue.

Residents of Chateaubelair and Fitz-Hughes have been given the all clear to return home from July 23 – this Friday.

Persons who were in shelters have travelled to their homes to begin the cleanup process in anticipation of returning home permanently, after spending months in shelters.

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