CARICOM leaders to discuss impact of hurricanes on the region

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) | Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders who met in special emergency session on Saturday to discuss the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Jose on the region, have expressed concern about the long term psychological effects of the situation on the Caribbean.

At least four people were killed in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), and one each in Haiti, Barbuda and Anguilla as Hurricane Irma passed through the Lesser Antilles earlier this week causing millions of dollars in damages. The storm also caused fatalities on Saint Maarten and St Barthelemy The regional leaders, who met by video “expressed concern about the long term psychological effects of the situation given the serious dislocation and sense of loss of the populations of the affected countries. “They also stressed that these disasters emphasised the economic vulnerability of the region given the cost of recovery and the impact on economic activity of the affected countries,” according to a statement issued by the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat late on Saturday night.

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

British Virgin islands Premier, Dr Orlando Smith, Bahamas Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, the Foreign Minister of Haiti, Antonio Rodrigues and a representative of the Turks and Caicos government provided the latest information on their countries, the statement noted.

It said that Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerritt provided information on the situation on the island of St Maarten where a significant number of CARICOM nationals are currently located and St Lucia’s Prime Minister, Allen Chastenet, who is also the chairman of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean states (OECS) alerted the meeting to the situation in St Kitts-Nevis.

CDEMA executive director, Ronald Jackson addressed the situation in Antigua and Barbuda and Anguilla as well as giving an update on the Community’s co-ordinated response to all the countries affected. Immediate needs were identified for those worst affected, particularly, Barbuda, British Virgin Islands and Anguilla.

These included water, food items, materials to aid in providing temporary shelter such as plywood and tarpaulins and especially cash to purchase items to help with the cost of immediate recovery efforts in the affected countries. An evacuation of Barbuda was well advanced due to the potential impact of Hurricane Jose.

Earlier this week, CDEMA activated the Regional Response Mechanism (RRM) which co-ordinates relief action and includes regional institutions, internation al agencies, and representatives from the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada.

CDEMA’s advance team has been waiting in Antigua to go in to the affected countries in that area as soon as conditions permit, given the proximity of Hurricane Jose.