SECRETARY-General of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Irwin LaRocque has warned that Hurricanes Irma and Maria which devastated many countries in the region last year were “a hint at what the future holds”. Irma struck Florida and left Cuba, St Martin, Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rico, British Virgin Islands, Haiti and the Dominican Republic with widespread damage.
Hurricane Maria was regarded as the worst natural disaster on record in Dominica and Puerto Rico and the tenth most intense Atlantic hurricane on record. Maria was the 13th named storm, eighth consecutive hurricane, fourth major hurricane, second Category 5 and the deadliest storm of the hyperactive 2017 Atlantic hurricane season.
At its peak, the hurricane caused catastrophic damage and numerous fatalities across the northeastern Caribbean, compounding recovery efforts in the areas of the Leeward Islands already struck by Hurricane Irma. Maria was the third consecutive major hurricane to threaten the Leeward Islands in two weeks, after Irma had made landfall in several of the islands two weeks prior and Hurricane Jose passed dangerously close shortly afterward, bringing tropical storm force winds to Barbuda.
Speaking Monday at the opening of a meeting with the Heads of Institutions of the Community at the Marriott Hotel, Georgetown, Guyana, LaRocque said the long-term forecasts for climatic activity in the region were even “more foreboding as the effects of climate change become more pronounced.” The meeting was aimed at strengthening the co-ordination among the institutions and the Secretariat as the community built resilience to encounter the new normal of more intense and frequent climatic activity.
A review of the preparedness and management of the response to the events of last September has been undertaken by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) to enhance their emergency responses.
“We are in a race against time to protect the people, the environment and our countries. Strategic efforts must be harnessed to build resilience in the Region,” LaRocque said.