News

Islands still struggling to rebuild...

as new hurricane season begins

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, June 02, 2018

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SEVERAL Caribbean countries impacted by major storms last year remain vulnerable and are facing challenges with the availability of reconstruction material, and labour in some instances as they continue with rebuilding activities, while keeping an eye on the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which started yesterday.

Giving details at a press conference in St Michael, Barbados on the status of hurricane season preparedness in the region yesterday, Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) Ronald Jackson said recovery and reconstruction activities are progressing in Dominica, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the British Virgin Islands (BVI) but there are concerns.

“While the countries have clearly defined a recovery strategy, they are all at different stages of their recovery and reconstruction process, he said. “The activities themselves (depend) on the availability of material in country and in some countries within the sub-region itself,” he explained.

Jackson noted that, for example, Dominica — one of the worst-hit countries last year — was having a tough time sourcing construction material, but that to the Government's credit, the country's building standards have been revised following Hurricane Maria. The category five system made landfall on September 18, devastating the island which has a population of just more than 70,000 persons, and moving its prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, to tears.

Yesterday, the CDEMA head said it has a “keen eye” on the issues still facing Dominica and the other countries which were badly hit last year. Jackson told reporters that with the support of international donor partners such as the Caribbean Development Bank, the Governments of the United Kingdom and Canada, along with private sector partners, these are still vulnerable countries with a suite of “legacy projects” to assist in recovery reconstruction efforts. Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the British Virgin Islands were the beneficiaries of this initiative, he noted.

In the case of Antigua and Barbuda, Jackson said CDEMA had provided US$50,000 to support people who were displaced by Hurricane Irma and were still living in shelters, while their homes are being rebuilt. He said that to date more than 270 persons have benefited.

For the BVI, an initial amount of US$70,000 has been provided to repair an autism centre in Tortola. An additional US$70,000 was also allocated to repair a community centre which is being used as a shelter.

Dominica, meanwhile, has so far received US$250,000, with the major portion donated by the Canadian Government. Jackson noted that a project being carried out in collaboration with a Jamaican private sector company to assist with reroofing and reconstruction in the Kalinago territory has been hampered by the unavailability of material in Dominica, which now has to be sourced from St Lucia.

CDEMA has also provided US$70,000 to the Government of the Turks and Caicos Islands to assist with resuscitating an educational facility.

Colorado State University researchers have predicted a busy hurricane season with above the 30-year average activity. According to the outlook, which Jackson highlighted, there are a potential 14 named storms, seven hurricanes, and three becoming major hurricanes in excess of category three.

Last year, three category five hurricanes ripped through the Caribbean, two of which threatened 12 states and impacted nine. “The Bahamas, Haiti, and St Kitts and Nevis had minor level one impact while Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, and the Turks and Caicos Islands experienced level two impact. Dominica and the British Virgin Islands were not as lucky and experienced level three impact which “was in the realm of a catastrophe event”, Jackson remarked.

He noted that despite 37 confirmed deaths over the 2017 hurricane period, there are indications that Caribbean citizens are taking greater precautions during the season.

“Despite the catastrophic nature of these events, clearly our citizens are getting the message because a catastrophic event of this nature in an area where there is high vulnerability and exposure can in fact lead to greater loss of life. The fact that we have limited loss of lives over the nine countries that were affected is a testament to clear improvements in the way citizens are receiving the message and acting on it from a preparedness point of view,” he stated.

— See related stories on Pages 5 and 6


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