Despite its economic and political problems, Venezuela is taking the lead in providing assistance to the government of Antigua where it is helping with the evacuation of people from its sister island, Barbuda, where 95 percent of the buildings are said to have been destroyed by Hurricane Irma.
This was revealed Friday by Secretary General of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) Dr June Soomer as she addressed the opening ceremony of the 26th Meeting of the Special Committee for Transport held at the ACS Secretariat, Sweet Briar Road, St.Clair. Soomer said that up to Friday morning, aircraft left Venezuela for St Lucia to collect supplies for Antigua and Barbuda. She said the Cuban government is also sending a group of technical people to the region although Cuba has also been affected by the hurricane.
She said that the prime minister of St Lucia is coordinating efforts to provide relief to the countries ravaged by Hurricane Irma and specifically asked that the countries of the ACS be involved in the relief efforts.
Soomer said that ACS member states Mexico and Guatemala have suffered major earthquakes, in the case of Mexico it was the biggest earthquake to hit the country since 1985, and there are tsunami warnings for all the countries in Central America: Panama, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. “And so our prayers are with them also as they are with the people of the region who have gone through this disaster caused by Hurricane Irma and quickly to be followed by Jose.”
She said that St Maarten, an associate member state of the ACS is also under severe pressure and will receive assistance from Cuba as well.
She said that while the rapid response to the disaster will save a lot of lives, “I am always concerned about the post-disaster period because it is a time when there are lots of debris and so we have to work also with these countries to help them to clean up very quickly and return to normalcy.” She said the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) is doing “a tremendous job” in helping with relief efforts and commended the organisation for its assistance, adding that the ACS looks forward to continuing to help all its member states and associate member states in their time of need. Soomer said the ACS was also assisting countries which are not even members of the organisation, such as the British Virgin Islands (BVI) which suffered “tremendous loss”. She said that although the BVI will be getting help from the British Government, the territory is one of “our sister countries and we want to help.”
Also addressing the opening ceremony was this country’s Minister of Works and Transport, Rohan Sinanan, who said that while each of the islands of the Caribbean spend huge sums of money promoting tourism, they can gain much more if they commit themselves to developing and strengthening travel in the region, including making interisland movement and trade cheaper, more easily accessible and more enjoyable by providing a better service.