Editorial

Our Caribbean neighbours need help in this their time of need

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

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Words cannot adequately describe the pain and despair we feel for our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean who have been affected by hurricanes Irma and Maria.

We are well aware of what they are going through, having had our own experience with Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 and, since then, other tropical cyclones that have unleashed death and significant damage to our island.

The Facebook post by Dominica's Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit yesterday was most heartbreaking, to say the least.

“So far we have lost all what money can buy and replace,” Prime Minister Skerrit wrote. “My greatest fear for the morning is that we will wake to news of serious physical injury and possible deaths as a result of likely landslides triggered by persistent rains.”

Word trickling out of the affected islands is that there is widespread devastation. An Agence France Presse report yesterday told us that Maria claimed its first victim in the French territory of Guadeloupe, where two other people were missing.

“The person was killed by a falling tree as powerful winds whipped the archipelago, authorities said, while two more disappeared when their boat went missing in the storm,” the news agency reported.

The irony is that Guadeloupe was serving as a base for aid flights to French territories hit by Hurricane Irma. As such, there is now great fear that major damage there could hamper the relief operation.

Last week, Sir Ronald Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda's ambassador to the United States and the Organisation of American States, described the situation in Barbuda after Irma's passage as “uninhabitable”. He also pointed to the possibility of disease resulting from dead animals and unclean water infiltration.

“The damage is complete,” Sir Ronald said. “For the first time in 300 years there's not a single living person on the island of Barbuda — a civilisation that has existed on that island for over 300 years has now been extinguished.”

Sir Ronald told a meeting with the Inter-American Emergency Aid Committee and representatives of major countries that Antigua and Barbuda has a US$1 billion economy but is facing rebuilding cost in excess of US$250 million.

He left no doubt that the people of Barbuda are determined to return to the island. However that, he noted, will be difficult until basic services can be restored, and the cost of those services is beyond the resources of the Government.

Our hope is that Sir Ronald's appeal will receive a favourable response from the Inter-American Emergency Aid Committee.

We note that Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago have already offered assistance to the affected countries, while France, Holland, England and the United States have come to the aid of their territories. At the same time, we hope that Caricom, as a body, will offer more than words of comfort to the countries ravaged by these monster storms. Indeed, Caricom should take a lead role in organising relief and rebuilding assistance from its members, not only because these islands are in this region, but because it is the humane thing to do.

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