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December 27, 2013

When Colleen James travelled to St Vincent and the Grenadines for the holidays, she never expected to find herself at the centre of a disaster that has left her 18-year-old sister dead and 2-year-old child, missing.{{more}}

The body of Kelsia James, a St Vincent and the Grenadines Community College student, was found in the Buccament area, under a mass of debris on Wednesday, while her neice, Shalani Headley, was, up to press time, still missing.

Heavy rains on Christmas Eve caused the Vermont river to overflow its banks and flood the family’s Cane Grove home, causing Colleen, her four children, sister and uncle to leave the house.

For over an hour before Kelsia’s body was found, Colleen could be heard screaming the name of her teenage sister and toddler, as persons tried to console her.

She even begged persons to let her look for her “baby”, who was probably lying “over there”.

When SEARCHLIGHT spoke with the distraught woman, she explained that she left the house because she was scared and wanted to find help.

“We were in the house and water started to come over and rush in the house,” she said.

“My mom called the police station at Questelles and they said try and get out the house. Me and my uncle and my three other kids and the baby and Kelsia got out of the house”.

She added that her mother and another sister stayed inside the house.

James recalled that while trying to make their way to the main road, the water came in a sudden rush that turned everyone over. The mother of four said that as she was being washed away, she held onto a tree.

“We went down…up, down…and then after I go on the tree, hold on to something and I feel somebody grab on to my foot. When I do grab his hand, it was my son and then my other son hold on to my uncle,” James said.

James, who is a Canadian resident, continued to tell her story, citing that she asked her uncle for her baby, Shalani and he in turn told her that she (Shalani) was washed away.

The woman told SEARCHLIGHT that she and her two sons managed to climb onto a nearby wall and then into a tree, where they began to shout for help. She revealed that she was yelling for Kelsia and her other daughter J’nia, who also got separated from the group.

“I thought my other daughter had gone too, then I was there yelling,” she said.

James said that it took a while before she heard her third child calling for help, and she instructed her to hold on.

“People were coming across there with searchlights and…we were screaming help, help, help. After they say ‘hold on, the water is still heavy’ and we were there praying…asking God to stop the rain because we know if the rain continue come then the tree gonna fall and we all gonna die,” James said.

She indicated that when the rain began to slow down and the water calmed, persons rescued her children and then her and her uncle.

Immediately after telling her story, James broke down and cried, “my baby die”.

The mother of four arrived in St Vincent on December 16 and planned to return to Canada on January 9.

Shalani, her last child, is counted among five persons, who are reported as missing in relation to the country’s flooding disaster on Christmas Day.

Kelsia is included in the count of eight persons, who lost their lives in the tragedy.(BK)