Guyana’s President David Granger says his country’s vast land mass can serve as “a gift” to all people from several Caribbean nations to relocate and rebuild their lives in the aftermath of devastating hurricanes Irma and Maria, the latter which is still carving a path of destruction in the Greater Antilles.
CARICOM member state Dominica was on Tuesday left completely knocked out by Category 5 Hurricane Maria which caused significant damage to that country’s physical infrastructure, its tourism-based economy and even its communication capabilities. Eight people were confirmed dead with search and rescue officials still to reach areas cut off completely as roads were washed away or blocked with debris.
Speaking with the Guyana media yesterday in New York prior to pitching to the United Nations General Assembly, the need for the international community to put measures in place to protect the environment now reacting to man’s exploitation, Granger said Guyana is the largest CARICOM state which has to to consider its land space “as being the hinterland of the Caribbean.”
Guyana’s land mass is 215,000 square kilometres with a population of just over 750,000. “We have to sit down and speak to other Caricom states to see how this gift could be utilised to give the Caribbean people a better life in the wake of these disasters.” In his lifetime, the 72-year-old Granger said, “I have never seen such a catastrophic series of hurricanes one after the other.”
Noting Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit who reported that winds blew away the roof of almost every building owned by people whom he had spoken to, made it clear climate change was not something to be ignored, particularly for small island states of the Caribbean.
“We’ve got to think of evacuation, where these people will go to,” Granger said. They cannot be moved from one affected island to another affected island and that it was largely it is a humanitarian situation. A man was reported killed in Guadeloupe and several islands were left inundated by floods caused by Maria’s outer bands. Though reports of the devastation were scarce yesterday, to contain the situation in Dominica, a state of emergency was declared and a curfew from 4 pm to 6 am, imposed.
Hartley Henry, Principal Advisor to Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit reported that was difficult to determine the level of fatalities in Dominica. With seven confirmed dead, he said, “the Prime Minister fears the number will rise as “he (waded) his way” into the rural communities yesterday. Henry reported Skerrit as saying yesterday morning as saying that his family was “fine” but Dominica “was not”. There was tremendous loss of housing and public buildings, he said. “The main general hospital took a beating. Patient care has been compromised. Many buildings serving as shelters lost roofs, which means that a very urgent need now is tarpaulins and other roofing materials.”
TT HELPING OUT
He said that little contact had been made with the outlying communities but persons who walked 10 and 15 miles to Roseau reported total destruction of homes, some roadways and crops.
“Urgent helicopter services are needed to take food, water and tarpaulins to outer districts for shelter.”
Canefield airport, he said, could accommodate helicopter landings and it was expected that from yesterday that the water around the main Roseau port would be calm enough to accommodate vessels taking relief supplies and other forms of assistance.
The urgent needs, Henry said, “are roofing materials for shelters, bedding supplies for hundreds stranded in or outside what is left of their homes and food and water drops for residents of outlying districts inaccessible at the moment.”
Trinidad and Tobago yesterday despatched a Coast Guard vessel with relief supplies, and a helicopter with search and rescue and initial damage assessment personnel along with supplies to Dominica. The Coast Guard vessel was due to arrive by noon yesterday.
Hurricane Maria yesterday continued on its way to Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands where it also wreaked havoc on islands that were already damaged by the Category 5 Hurricane Irma which left about 84 people dead in the Caribbean and mainland USA.