CARICOM Heads of Government meet on Hurricane situation

Heads1Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) met in special emergency session today, Saturday 10 September to receive an update on the effects of the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Jose on the Region and progress on the co-ordinated response to provide relief for those affected.

The meeting, presided over by CARICOM Chairman, Dr the Rt Honourable Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada, received a full briefing on the situation from representatives of the affected countries, the Caribbean Disaster Management Agency (CDEMA), the Community’s lead agency for disaster response, CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque and regional institutions.

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CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque and Chef-de-Cabinet Charmaine Atkinson-Jordan at the meeting

Premier of the British Virgin Islands, (BVI) the Honourable Dr Orlando Smith, the Prime Minister of The Bahamas the Honourable Dr Hubert Minnis, the Foreign Minister of Haiti, the Honourable Antonio Rodrigues and a representative of the Turks and Caicos Government provided the latest information on their countries. Prime Minister of Dominica, the Honourable Roosevelt Skerritt provided information on the situation on the island of St Maarten where a significant number of CARICOM nationals are currently located and Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, the Honourable Allen Chastenet alerted the meeting to the situation in St Kitts and Nevis. (more…)

CARICOM Secretary-General – saddened by deaths from Hurricane Irma

Cxii_cc_logoSecretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Ambassador Irwin LaRocque has expressed his sadness at the deaths caused by Hurricane Irma in its path through the region.

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CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque

“I am saddened to hear of the loss of life the Secretary-General said.  “I extend my sympathies to the families of the deceased and to the Governments and People of the countries,” he added.

Secretary-General LaRocque noted that reports were still coming in with respect to damage in the countries which have experienced the wrath of the huge storm, while preparations were being made for its arrival in those countries which have been identified as being likely to be affected by the hurricane.

Hurricane Irma has so far struck the CARICOM Member State of Antigua and Barbuda, and the Associate Members Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands, with its outer bands affecting St. Kitts and Nevis and Dominica.  The Turks and Caicos Islands, The Bahamas and Haiti are in the predicted path of the Hurricane. (more…)

Barbuda, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands hammered by Hurricane Irma

“What we experienced is like something you see in a horror movie…cars flying over our heads…40-foot containers flying left and right…persons were literally tying themselves to their roofs with ropes. Shared a visibly shaken resident of Barbuda, recounting her experience to the ABS (Antigua/Barbuda Broadcasting Services) Television/Radio when the “most powerful hurricane ever recorded over the Atlantic Ocean” – Hurricane Irma, ravaged the island Wednesday morning.

A two-year-old infant, was Barbuda’s only casualty as Irma’s high winds flattened the island, with Prime Minister Gaston Browne saying 90% of buildings have been destroyed  and 60% of the population of around 1,400 people left homeless.

A communication tower was ripped in half as Irma destroyed critical infrastructure including roads, phone services and water. Prime Minister Browne upon observing the ruins overhead said “What I saw was heart-wrenching – I mean, absolutely devastating.”   The recovery effort is set to take months or years, with Prime Minister Browne estimating the cost in the range of $150 million.  A voluntary evacuation notice has been issued by the government from Barbuda to Antigua – where damage was less severe – as part of relief efforts and ahead of the prospective arrival of Hurricane Jose this weekend.

The category five hurricane has also claimed the life of one person in Anguilla. “One Anguilla resident told the BBC the island looked as if it had been struck by a nuclear bomb, with roofs torn off many of the main buildings, including the hospital.” The Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), Ronald Jackson, stated that “police stations, hospitals, school facilities, three or four emergency shelters, a home for the infirm and the aged, as well as the fire station”, along with many homes, had been damaged or destroyed. The tourist board said major resorts on the island had withstood the onslaught and the airport and two ports were closed. U.K. Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan described the damage as “severe and in places critical” and has pledged and dispatched aid in the form of: “£12 million, and a navy ship RFA Mounts Bay, with four humanitarian experts and aid flights on standby.”

Photo of wreckage in Anguilla (ABS Television/Radio)
Photo of wreckage in Anguilla (ABS Television/Radio)

A public health emergency has been declared in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) “where critical facilities, as well as homes, businesses and supermarkets, have been devastated…and areas of land entirely stripped of vegetation”. Tortola, the main island,   suffered extensive damage with images showing “charter boats piled randomly into the corners of bays.”

Destruction caused by Hurricane Irma - British Virgin Islands (BVI News Online, 2017)
Destruction caused by Hurricane Irma – British Virgin Islands (BVI News Online, 2017)

Other CARICOM Member States that were “spared the full brunt” of Irma were St Kitts and Nevis,  and Montserrat which was just “swiped” by the hurricane.

CARICOM States that are still expected to be hit by the Hurricane are Haiti where it is estimated that up to three million people could be affected  with some people in coastal areas ignoring orders to evacuate as the country still works to recover from last year’s passage of Hurricane Matthew. The Turks and Caicos Islands also lie directly in the hurricane’s predicated path, with the low-lying region running the risk of a storm surge with destructive waves up to 6m (20ft) higher than usual. The Bahamas has been evacuating people from six islands in the south to the capital, Nassau, in the largest storm evacuation in the country’s history, according to Prime Minister Hubert Minnis.

 

CARICOM Chairman – The Community stands ready to assist post-Irma recovery efforts

Cxii_cc_logoThe Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Dr the Rt Honourable Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada, has expressed his sorrow at the deaths caused by Hurricane Irma.

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CARICOM Chairman, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell of Grenada

“This massive storm has already claimed lives in many of the countries and has inflicted severe damage to infrastructure in the affected islands,” the Prime Minister said. “I extend condolences to the family of the deceased and to the Governments and Peoples of the countries.  It is almost impossible to assess the human cost of disasters such as these,” he added.

Prime Minister Mitchell has been kept abreast of the situation through discussions with CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque and the Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, (CDEMA) Mr Ronald Jackson. The Chairman has spoken to the leaders of most of the States already affected by the Hurricane, the Honourable Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Dr the Rt Honourable Timothy Harris, Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis and the Chief Minister of Anguilla, the Honourable Victor Banks.

The Chairman has also been in contact with the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, the Honourable Allen Chastanet, the Lead Head of Government for Sustainable Development including Disaster Management in the CARICOM Quasi Cabinet.

“We hope and pray that the countries in the predicted path of the hurricane, Turks and Caicos Islands, The Bahamas and Haiti are spared its worst effects,” Prime Minister Mitchell said.

“The Community stands ready to render whatever assistance it can to assist in the recovery efforts which are being co-ordinated by CDEMA,” the CARICOM Chairman said.