Caricom to hold donor conference seeking aid for hurricane-battered countries

Thursday, September 14, 2017

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — Caribbean Community (Caricom) chairman, Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, says while it is still too early to give a financial cost to the damage caused to the British Virgin Islands (BVI) by Hurricane Irma, it could reach a staggering US$1 billion.

“You are talking every government building destroyed. The schools are gone and all of government headquarters. The ministers' homes and all; no minister's home was left not destroyed. Parliament gone... really, we are looking at an enormous amount of resources that will be needed,” Mitchell said after leading a delegation that visited the islands battered by the Category Five storm last week.

“It is still too early to say, but clearly if you have [a group of] countries like the BVI you have got to be talking hundreds of millions of US dollars, if not or close to a billion dollars or more,” he added.

Mitchell said Caricom was mobilising some resources to assist the ravaged islands, and would soon hold a donors' conference in a bid to secure further help.

“After we get a good idea of the problems and a picture of the destruction and the needs that we have seen... that should come soon. That will be Caricom's major initiative,” said the Grenada prime minister.

Caricom Secretary General Irwin LaRocque, who was part of the delegation, described Irma as a “nuclear hurricane”.

“When it shook Tortola as a Category Five and you have heard it being described as a nuclear hurricane, I now understand what they meant... The damage is just overwhelming.

“One can shore up building codes as much as possible — and there is always room for improvement — [but] I am sure with a storm of that ferocity, that intensity and as large as it was... the only thing that one could do is pray,” LaRocque said, adding that he was struck by the carnage that Hurricane Irma caused with its pounding winds of 185 miles per hour.

“We have just come from Anguilla. Clearly a lot of destruction but nothing to compare to what we saw in BVI. It seems like we are going to have to place more focus on the BVI than what we had been thinking before. That is my estimation of the situation so far,” Prime Minister Mitchell said.

Meanwhile, the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF SPC) said it would be making payments totalling US$29.6 million to six Caribbean governments impacted by Hurricane Irma under their tropical cyclone insurance policies.

It said the Turks and Caicos Islands will receive US$13.6 million from CCRIF, while the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, St Kitts & Nevis, Haiti, and The Bahamas will benefit as a result of their tropical cyclone insurance policies that they hold with CCRIF.

“Preliminary calculations of the payments for all six countries …will be received by the countries within 14 days of the event as mandated by CCRIF's operational guidelines. CCRIF continues to assess if any excess rainfall policies of its member countries were triggered by the rains from Hurricane Irma,” the CCRIF SPC said in a statement.

CCRIF was developed under the technical leadership of the World Bank and with a grant from Japan.

It was capitalised through contributions to a Multi-Donor Trust Fund by the Government of Canada, the European Union, the World Bank, the governments of the United Kingdom and France, the Caribbean Development Bank and the governments of Ireland and Bermuda, as well as through membership fees paid by participating governments.

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