We were spared from Irma, not Blessed

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Clau­dia Elei­box

Saint Lu­cia sat like the ten­der fil­let mignon of the ar­chi­pel­ago while the north­ern Caribbean is­lands pre­pared for un­bear­able days (Florida for weeks) an­tic­i­pat­ing the un­wanted ar­rival of Hur­ri­cane Irma and an ‘af­ter­math’ in the form of Hur­ri­cane Jose. While all of this was hap­pen­ing, Mex­ico got lashed by Hur­ri­cane Ka­tia and lost 96 peo­ple to an 8.1 mag­ni­tude earth­quake. But Hur­ri­cane Irma was the ma­jor high­light of ev­ery in­ter­na­tional news chan­nel, web­site, con­ver­sa­tion and so­cial me­dia.

Saint Lu­cia watched and prayed for our neigh­bour­ing is­lands be­cause storms are some­thing with which we are more fa­mil­iar than we would like to be, but thank­fully we were spared from this one.

As Prime Min­is­ter Chas­tanet sug­gested in his ad­dress in the House of Par­lia­ment on Tues­day, “What was very in­ter­est­ing was it’s the first time that we’ve had a hur­ri­cane that would have im­pacted the coun­tries that would have prob­a­bly been the ones to give us sup­port.”

Hur­ri­cane Irma clocked max­i­mum wind speeds of 185 mph and one of the low­est pres­sure in­dexes of 914 hPa (com­pared to the most in­tense At­lantic hur­ri­canes ever recorded: Allen [190 mph] and Wilma [882 hPa]) while she dili­gently re­mained on the path of pe­tite Caribbean is­lands.

For coun­tries in­clud­ing Bar­buda, Saint Martin/Sint Maarten, the Bri­tish and U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands, Ba­hamas, and Turks and Caicos, it sig­ni­fied the end of all com­fort and life as these is­lan­ders knew. De­struc­tion rolled in with cat­a­strophic wind and gusts that pum­meled to the ground some of the most solid struc­tures. Unceas­ing rain­fall ex­panded rivers which swept away build­ings from their foun­da­tions. Har­bours known to weather hur­ri­canes time af­ter time, like that of Tor­tola, couldn’t han­dle the fe­roc­ity of the storm. The waves Irma in­duced were com­pet­i­tive with tsunami heights and in some places the oceans and beaches were lit­er­ally, tem­po­rar­ily “sucked away” by the ab­nor­mally pow­er­ful hur­ri­cane.

Now that the storm has dis­si­pated, Bar­bu­dans who ex­pe­ri­enced the full force of the hur­ri­cane, re­count their ex­pe­ri­ences de­scrib­ing the an­i­mals killed by soar­ing de­bris and the ter­ror faced while fam­i­lies hud­dled close in wardrobes, as their houses were be­ing ripped to shreds by the howl­ing wind around them.

Irma was deadly, tak­ing with her (as of present count) at least 34 lives. The death toll is ris­ing as Caribbean na­tives de­scribe their once, al­most utopian home­land, the per­fect callaloo of golden sand, translu­cent seas, sun and smiles, as now “smelling of death” and oth­ers ad­mit to be­ing “un­able to cope” with the af­ter­math of the storm.

Hur­ri­cane Irma trig­gered flash­backs for Saint Lu­cians who ex­pe­ri­enced in 1980, a Cat­e­gory 3 ver­sion of Hur­ri­cane Allen. One gen­tle­man rem­i­nisced while he mim­icked cat­er­waul­ing winds and men­tioned our fa­mil­iar green, lush fo­liage in­stead looked charred to cin­ders ex­pos­ing ev­ery hill­side house. In his turn, a then ho­tel worker de­scribed boul­ders from the sea­side be­ing thrown onto the roads by in­com­ing hur­ri­cane winds on his way home from the ho­tel, “Let’s say the hur­ri­cane was sup­posed to reach at 12, well by 8 o’clock ev­ery­thing that had to mash-up was al­ready gone . . . All ba­nana trees were ly­ing flat on the ground.”

In 1987 the is­land was still re­cov­er­ing from Allen’s ef­fects. So, it only pans out that in the event of Hur­ri­cane Irma, like a dif­fer­ent Allen, the Prime Min­is­ter sug­gested, Saint Lu­cia would sym­pa­thize and be will­ing to help as we did with Gre­nada when it suf­fered from Hur­ri­cane Ivan.

Irma left 28-30,000 Caribbean na­tion­als af­fected, some with­out food, homes, potable wa­ter or means to care for hy­giene. Ar­eas re­main un­til now with­out power and wire­less or tele­phone com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and res­i­dents claim that if the right “help doesn’t come, more peo­ple will die”.

Re­ports say that 90% of all build­ings were hurled down to rub­ble in the FrenchDutch is­land of Saint Martin/ Sint Maarten. In the midst of nat­u­ral dis­as­ter, sur­vivors on both sides of the is­land are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing is­sues of se­cu­rity, loot­ing and breach­ing of the law whilst of­fi­cials strug­gle to main­tain or­der. The calamity wors­ened when the pas­sage of Hur­ri­cane Jose de­layed aid ef­forts. Bar­buda was re­ported to have en­dured “to­tal devastation” and de­scribed as “al­most un­in­hab­it­able” and so all 1,800 res­i­dents were evac­u­ated to the ma­jor part of the twin state, An­tigua. An­guilla also re­ported that about 90% of build­ings were dam­aged by Hur­ri­cane Irma. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is still un­sta­ble there; how­ever, there are re­ports of over 100 pris­on­ers roam­ing free in the Bri­tish Over­seas Ter­ri­to­ries due to a prison be­ing blown apart by hur­ri­cane winds.

Ac­cord­ing to the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter, Saint Lu­cia has been send­ing aid, and has made of­fers to evac­u­ate and house vic­tims via the Na­tional Emer­gency Man­age­ment Or­ga­ni­za­tion (NEMO), and has ini­ti­ated free land­ing fees and 24 hour ser­vice at our air­ports. The Or­ga­ni­za­tion of East­ern Caribbean States (OECS) is also as­sist­ing af­fected Caribbean is­lands.

Some re­ports, like that of cited a pho­to­graph of a Bri­tish ter­ri­tory cabi­net meet­ing’s notes for 12 Septem­ber, 2017 which quoted, "We are work­ing with St Lu­cia and BVI au­thor­i­ties to se­cure the trans­fer to St Lu­cia of 40 high-risk pris­on­ers that have es­caped in BVI." How­ever, that same day Prime Min­is­ter Chas­tanet an­nounced in the House of Par­lia­ment, “The govern­ment of Saint Lu­cia has agreed, at the re­quest of the Bri­tish Govern­ment, to take in three pris­on­ers that would be com­ing in from Turks and Caicos. I have con­sulted with the Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice and Min­is­ter of Se­cu­rity as well as with the staff of Borde­lais.”

The prime min­is­ter used the op­por­tu­nity to as­sure all that the na­tion’s se­cu­rity was not be­ing put at risk.

Borde­lais Di­rec­tor Verne Garde, ac­knowl­edg­ing the PM’s state­ment, noted that upon his com­mence­ment of the post in Fe­bru­ary 2015, Borde­lais housed 644 in­mates, which is about 29% over of­fi­cial ca­pac­ity. As of Fri­day last week the prison recorded 518 in­mates (a num­ber which varies weekly) and is pre­pared to ac­com­mo­date those pris­on­ers with which the Bri­tish govern­ment needs as­sis­tance.

Many of the Caribbean is­lands af­fected are Bri­tish, French, Dutch and United States ter­ri­to­ries. De­struc­tion of air­ports and har­bours plus the loom­ing Hur­ri­cane Jose ini­tially de­layed re­sponse, but all the afore­men­tioned govern­ments have sent troops, sup­plies and fund­ing to their re­spec­tive ter­ri­to­ries.

Mean­while UNICWF, which is cur­rently aid­ing af­fected women and chil­dren, urges the in­ter­na­tional scope of govern­ments to lend a help­ing hand. “We haven’t been able to raise the funds from other govern­ments at the mo­ment. This is where I do think we need a much big­ger in­ter­na­tional re­sponse to the fund­ing that’s needed,” said Khin-Sandi Lwin, leader of UNICEF’s re­sponse to the Caribbean. “At the mo­ment we are op­er­at­ing on reg­u­lar funds we have for our on­go­ing pro­grammes. We put aside money – about $800,000 – to get our first re­sponse up, but it means our reg­u­lar pro­grammes into next year will be down. We do need that ad­di­tional fund­ing – about US$2.3m,” he con­firmed to

Other Caribbean is­lands af­fected in­clude Cuba and Puerto Rico. A num­ber of ver­i­fied crowd-fund­ing ini­tia­tives have been posted on­line.

Any­one will­ing to do­nate can ac­cess these and other cred­i­ble dona­tion web­sites: An­tigua and Bar­buda Red Cross Vir­gin Unite BVI Com­mu­nity Sup­port Ap­peal Global Giv­ing’s Hur­ri­cane Irma Re­lief Fund Bri­tish Red Cross UNICEF Amer­i­can Red Cross Con­voy of Hope Ox­fam Save the Chil­dren SPCA In­ter­na­tional Na­tional Vol­un­tary Or­ga­ni­za­tions Ac­tive in Dis­as­ter

Re­lief ef­forts are still un­der­way in sev­eral Caribbean is­lands post Hur­ri­cane Irma.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.