Still reeling from the effects of several hurricanes which have ripped through the region during the last months, Red Cross National Societies are now dealing with Hurricane Wilma, the 21st named storm of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, which according to hurricane experts is the strongest hurricane ever recorded. Wilma, which is a category four Hurricane, is carrying winds of up to 270 km per hour. Weather forecasters are warning of possible flash floods and mudslides.
The Red Cross is on high alert and has activated volunteer networks throughout the region. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Panama is closely monitoring the situation and supporting local Red Cross National Societies should assistance be required.
“Here in Panama, the International Federation has relief stocks such as plastic sheeting, hygiene articles and kitchen sets that can be mobilized immediately” said Nelson Castaño, the International Federation’s Pan-American Disaster Response Unit coordinator.
The Red Cross in Belize, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua and the United States are cooperating with national authorities in responding to the needs of people as Hurricane Wilma develops.
The American Red Cross is preparing to shelter tens of thousands of evacuees and has mobilized hundreds of disaster relief workers, equipment and supplies in order for relief efforts to begin immediately after the storm passes. The American Red Cross in coordination with its partners has the capacity to serve up to 300,000 meals.
Mexican Red Cross response teams have been placed on high alert and are ready to be deployed as needed. Immediate Mexican Red Cross efforts include the deployment of relief units in Yucatan and the pre-positioning of 28 tons of food supplies. An additional 20 tons are expected to arrive today.
The Honduran Red Cross has put all of its branches in the Atlantic region on alert and relief workers have been responding and providing assistance to the population by participating in the evacuation of vulnerable communities.
Meanwhile in the Caribbean, the Cuban Red Cross has issued an alert for the western part of the country. Around 500 volunteers have participated in the evacuation of 7,000 people from threatened areas. The Jamaica Red Cross has assisted in the evacuation of families to shelters and has provided relief items including blankets, water and hygiene articles.