Good Samaritan shocked at Beryl’s destruction in Carriacou: ‘People were crying out for help’

Navin Kalpoo. -
Navin Kalpoo. -

ON July 5, Trinidadian Navin Kalpoo stood at a shelter in northern Carriacou, overwhelmed by the number of desperate people calling for even the smallest of items to recover from one of the worst hurricanes in the island’s history.

“One child held on to me and said: ‘Uncle, can I get a blanket?’ because some people, children too, are sleeping on mattresses, pieces of cardboard and some are just sleeping on a sheet on the ground. That got to me.”

He and a team of six others from Sewa International had arrived in Carriacou from Trinidad just hours before on a mission to bring relief items to the hurricane-torn country.

In an interview with Newsday on July 7, hours after he returned, Kalpoo said while he was able to provide a blanket for the child and a few others – taking their own blankets and sheets from off their boat to give to the displaced on Carriacou – many more needed food, shelter and means to communicate with the outside world.

Volunteers unload relief items from the Captain Harriss in Carriacou on July 4. The relief items were taken to the island from TT by Sewa International volunteers after Hurricane Beryl decimated the island on July 1. - Photo courtesy Navin Kalpoo

“People were crying out for help.”

“Even if it is pharmaceuticals, or clothes, or even a simple tarpaulin, they were all in need.”

He said aside from food items, the people of Carriacou need blankets, bed sheets, power sources and tarpaulins as they try to recover from the destruction.

Mass destruction in Carriacou

Kalpoo said on June 30, he was preparing items for Hurricane Beryl, which, at the time, was heading toward TT, but it passed TT with minimal damage.

But the next day, when he heard about the hurricane’s impact on Carriacou, he used those relief items to send to the affected islands.

He said when they got to the island, they were taken aback by the level of destruction they saw, with the majority of homes either damaged or destroyed, all communication down and people desperate for help.

The good Samaritans gathered food items and outfitted a long liner – a large fishing boat called Captain Harriss – to carry the goods across to the affected islands.

They went with food items, sheets of tarpaulin, power supply sources and other survival items. He said the rough seas made the trip longer than expected – a seven-hour trip was extended to 13 hours – and they had to stay overnight because of a curfew imposed on the island, but when they got there, the destruction was worse than expected.

“It’s ten times worse than what is being seen on social media. Several houses in a row are totally gone; the displaced are moving in with the people who have roofs.”

He said shelters are overcrowded and because of the hurricane, accommodations are poor.

“There is no electricity, no water, the toilets do not work the way they are supposed to, the place is hot and it’s crowded.

“Some people are broken down mentally because they don’t know where to start. Some lost everything they had and they don’t even know which direction to go.”

He said people were begging for sheets of tarpaulin to cover parts of their homes so they could have a place to shelter away from the crowded shelters while they figure out how to pick up the pieces of their destroyed homes and start rebuilding.

He said there was little to no vegetation on the island, with the majority of the trees being blown down by the hurricane’s winds. Cars were destroyed by fallen trees and rubble from destroyed homes could be seen across the island.

The port at Tyrrel Bay was useable and they were able to dock there, but, he said, there was a desperate need to have communication back up for the island.

Digicel was able to get one of the cellphone towers near the Tyrrel Bay port up and operational, but the range of the tower was short because it was still damaged.

“Everyone had to rush to that area just to get the word out to relatives and loved ones.”

House without roofs after Hurricane Beryl slammed into Carriacou on Monday July 1. This photo was posted in the Unicef Eastern Caribbean’s Facebook page hours after the storm. - Photo courtesy Unicef Eastern Caribbean

Hurricane Beryl started as a tropical disturbance on June 29 and quickly developed into a category four hurricane, fuelled by record-warm waters. The hurricane, at that time, threatened Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, TT and St Vincent and the Grenadines. While TT was mostly spared, Grenada and its dependents Carriacou and Petite Martinique, and St Vincent and the Grenadines were hit hard.

On July 3, as the hurricane made its way to Jamaica, Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) executive director Elizabeth Riley said the majority of homes and buildings in Carriacou, which has a population of about 6,081 were extensively damaged, with the majority of people sheltering in temporary arrangements. Petit Martinique, too, suffered severe damage, with the entire 900-person population being affected.

In St Vincent and the Grenadines, 100 per cent of the population of the island of Canouan, estimated at 12,600 people, were affected by the hurricane, with 90 per cent of the houses either extensively damaged or destroyed. She confirmed the police station in Charlestown had lost its roof.

On Union Island, the 3,000-person population was also affected, with 98 per cent of the buildings, including houses, being damaged. Riley said the airport building had been badly damaged, with the control tower of the airport destroyed.

She added that the roof of the hospital was also destroyed.

The power plant was severely damaged. About 30 per cent of the island’s solar panels in its solar farm were either damaged or destroyed.

Other islands under threat by Beryl reported damage to coastal areas, power outages, landslides and fallen trees.

In Barbados, the fishing sector and coastal areas experienced significant damage, particularly to the south of the island.

Riley said over 200 boats were damaged and there were partial road obstructions due to debris and fallen trees. St Lucia got significant damage to the south of the island, especially along the Soufrière waterfront. St Lucia also reported fallen trees and landslides.

The destruction of Category 4 storm Hurricane Beryl after it battered Carriacou on Monday July 1, is seen in this photo posted in the Unicef Eastern Caribbean's Facebook page hours after the storm. - Photo courtesy Unicef Eastern Caribbean

TT reported power outages, water disruptions and temporarily blocked roads. Dominica only reported minor damage.

The wind speeds of the hurricane have been tracked at 165 mph (265.5 km/h), making it one of the strongest July hurricanes in history. Forecasters warned it could remain at least a tropical storm as it moves toward Mexico.

On July 2, Newsday was able to confirm at least four deaths, with Grenadian Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell saying at least three people had been killed and “possibly more,” and St Vincent and Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves saying one person died on the Grenadine island of Bequia on July 1.

Kalpoo: ‘We will keep helping’

Kalpoo said he would continue sending help to the affected Carriacou people. He returned to TT at 4.30 am on July 7, he told Newsday.

He said the group of good Samaritans planned to meet later in the day to assess the costs of the relief that was already sent and to co-ordinate to send more. He said another vessel has already been sent on July 6, and a third is expected to leave for Carriacou on July 8.

He and his brother Ravi Kalpoo run Kalpoo’s Bird Sanctuary Ibis Tours at the Caroni Bird Sanctuary, but during the hurricane season, they use their equipment and connections to assist people in TT affected by flooding.

In 2018, after the residents of Kelly Village experienced heavy flooding, the Kalpoo brothers were on the front lines, offering their boats to transport people out of the area. They made more than 30 trips to people stranded in the village because of flooding.


"Good Samaritan shocked at Beryl’s destruction in Carriacou: ‘People were crying out for help’"

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