Reaching out to Guyanese a challenge
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Vice-President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Carl Greenidge
Vice-President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Carl Greenidge

— one week after Hurricane Irma visited Caribbean


THE massive destruction done to communication and other physical infrastructures in the hurricane ravaged islands has made it difficult for the Foreign Affairs Ministry to ascertain how many Guyanese have been made homeless.

Barbuda, St. Barts, Anguilla, BVI, Turks and Caicos and Saint Maarten are among the islands wrecked when Hurricane Irma made its initial landfall in the Caribbean on September 6.

Speaking on the matter, which is gaining global attention, Vice-President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge, on Wednesday said Guyana is working closely with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), however, the country’s ability to effectively communicate with persons on the ground remains an obstacle.

“I can’t for example tell you how many Guyanese have been made homeless in St. Barts. I am unable to speak to the Honorary Consul in St. Maarten because his residence, and apparently all of his belongings have been destroyed, and so we have to seek to get information from these places by round about routes,” he explained.

Minister Greenidge noted that while some islands are plotting their next move, other islands have sought refuge in other territories.

“In some places, Anguilla for example, the authorities and the external assistance they have sought to resettle, remove persons and take them to other locations, that compounds the problem,” he said while alluding to attempts by Guyana to ascertain the number of Guyanese affected and the severity of the impact of the hurricane on them.

“While it has been said that some Guyanese would like to be repatriated, we have not received any significant number of request for such movement. That is in part because communication is poor, but it is also because in some instances Guyanese who are in these locations would prefer at least in the first instance…remain and try to rebuild rather than to get up and leave at this point in time,” he added.

Nonetheless, he said CARICOM has recently sent a team on the ground to assist with the communication of much needed information.

The government and the private sector on Monday agreed to a national response to assist the affected islands contributing $10M (US$50,000) to the CDEMA Fund to assist with relief efforts.

To date, 26 persons have been confirmed dead.

“The number of persons dead and missing is expected to rise as communications and access are gradually restored across the Caribbean,” CDC Deputy Director-General, Major Kester Craig explained at a separate forum.

“Several organisations are deploying prepositioned teams and supplies to begin recovery efforts and assessments as quickly as possible,” he added.

He however noted that the majority of the Caribbean islands battered by Irma were spared by Hurricane Jose.

Alluding to the impact on CDEMA participating states, Major Craig pointed out that the hurricane’s impact on Anguilla was high, with four fatalities recorded.
Additionally, 90 per cent of the electricity infrastructure has been damaged on the island, along with 90 per cent of government buildings and businesses. Ninety per cent of the roads have also been deemed impassable.

Antigua and the Bahamas recorded low levels of impact, but Barbuda was not spared. According to Major Craig, one person was killed during the storm, while 1413 persons have been evacuated from the island to Antigua.

Like Anguilla, 90 per cent of Barbuda’s electricity infrastructure has been damaged, along with significant damages to critical facilities such as roads, water and communication systems. Approximately 99 per cent of its building stock has been damaged; a total of 1084 structures.

In the British Virgin Islands, four deaths have been confirmed, while in Haiti, one person was killed, and one is reported missing. In the BVI, the impact was high, but in Dominica, Haiti, Montserrat and St. Kitts and Nevis, it was not so severe.

In Sint Maarten, nine fatalities were confirmed, while four deaths were confirmed in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI), and three in Puerto Rico.

All these islands were significantly affected, but the impacts were not so severe in The Dominican Republic and neighbouring Cuba.

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