Brian Lewis, president of the Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees (CANOC), has issued a rallying call to the organisation’s member nations as Hurricane Irma continues to wreak havoc across the area.
At least 20 people are known to have died so far across the Caribbean, while it is claimed an estimated 1.2 million have been affected.
Despite being downgraded to a Category Four storm as it moved between Cuba and the Bahamas, Irma was still described as “extremely dangerous” with winds reaching 150 miles per hour. Irma is now expected to hit the American state of Florida and 5.6 million people have been told to evacuate as the storm approaches.
In a message to members, Lewis claimed it was too early to gauge the overall damage Irma has caused but did pay tribute to Dag Samuels, a British Virgin Islands athletics coach that tragically died.
“Although we were warned very early that this year we would witness one of the most active hurricane seasons, nothing could have prepared us for the onslaught we have received thus far and what looms ahead,” Lewis wrote. “We have heard of the shattered state of several of our member nations consequent upon the passage of Hurricane Irma, which continues on its destructive path even as we circulate this message.
“We have not yet gotten the full extent of damage and loss of lives but we are aware of some, including one of the athletics coaches of the British Virgin Islands, Dag Samuels, who has been a friend of all of us for some time.”
Another storm, Jose, appears to be following directly behind Irma and is now classified as a Category Four hurricane.
It appears to be following a similar course to Irma and is already slowing down relief efforts in some areas.
“Our following of the hurricane season suggests the CANOC members are not yet out of the woods regarding the wrath of Irma and yet some are expecting further damage with the coming through of Hurricane Jose,” Lewis added.
“While we continue to pray for our members, their families and indeed their entire countries, we are ever mindful of the importance of solidarity among our membership.
“We ask for constant communication and sharing of situations at this time.
“Let us commit to assisting where we can and also looking out for possible assistance from the sports fraternity globally.
“I have faith in the value of sport to uplift our people and our eagerness to rise above all adversities that confront us.”