Caribbean Red Cross Societies are supporting thousands of people affected by Hurricane Dean, distributing vital relief items, and helping communities take the first slow steps towards recovery.
Dean, which began as a category two hurricane, tore through Dominica, Martinique, St Lucia and Jamaica, before developing into a category five as it reached Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, just above the border with Belize. Eleven people were killed by the storm and severe damage has been recorded right across the region
In Dominica, Dean destroyed 99 per cent of the country’s banana industry. In St Lucia, communities in the north of the island were left without any water and electricity for days. In Jamaica, the government has declared an island-wide, month-long state of emergency. In Belize at least 2,500 families have been affected.
The Dominica Red Cross has been working with their local authorities to carry out damage assessments in the most affected areas south of the capital of Roseau. Initial island-wide reports suggest that approximately 500 poorly constructed, low income houses have lost all or part of their roofs. Already, all main roads have been cleared of fallen trees and landslides and utility companies are working to restore services. Although electricity has been restored to most of the capital city, intermittent cuts to power continue.
According to Kathleen Pinard-Byrne, the president of the Dominica Red Cross, volunteers have been distributing tarpaulins and other relief items to those affected.
“At least 50 per cent of houses that were affected have replaced their old galvanized sheets, but these will need to be replaced as they continue to leak,” she said.
With this in mind, the Dominica Red Cross is appealing for building materials such as zinc sheeting, capping and nails for 500 homes as well as household items for 200 families. The Red Cross will also be issuing a manual on safe construction techniques titled ‘Make the Right Connection’.
Jamaica Red Cross is also stepping up its efforts. Since the hurricane passed through the island, Red Cross volunteers have been out in the field conducting damage assessments and needs analyses. A four-person team, including the Red Cross’ president, director general and the director of emergency services, visited areas in the parishes of St Catherine and Clarendon which suffered the most damages.
“Areas in Portland Cottage and Rocky Point were devastated and will require a sustained and dedicated effort” said Dr Jaslin Salmon, president of Jamaica Red Cross.
“There is much damage to roofs and agriculture. We are endeavoring to provide people with seeds and other items so that they can begin the recovery process,” added Yvonne Clarke, director general of Jamaica Red Cross.
The most immediate needs appear to be temporary shelter, food and water. Volunteers have already begun distributing these and other relief items to the parishes of Clarendon, Manchester, St Ann, St Catherine and Kingston and St Andrew.
Jamaica Red Cross is working closely with the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) and other members of the national Disaster Committee to address the needs identified.
In Belize, approximately 2,500 families have been affected. According to Karen Diaz, president of the Belize Red Cross Society, the districts of Corozal and Orange Walk, plus the islands of Ambergris Caye and Caye Calker have experienced some damage.
Three Red Cross teams have conducted rapid needs assessments in the country’s northern districts. Electricity infrastructure is down and water systems inoperable in affected areas. Preliminary assessments in the worst hit district of Corozal indicate 1,800 families in need of immediate assistance. Access to potable water is the number one priority, along with shelter for those made homeless. Four hundred homes were destroyed and a further 1,500 were damaged.
As ever, the worst affected people in Belize are those who were already economically marginalized before the storm hit.
The International Federation’s Pan American Disaster Response Unit (PADRU) has deployed a disaster management expert to Belize, to support local Red Cross efforts to respond.
The International Federation has launched an appeal for almost 1.6 million Swiss Francs ($1.3 million USD / euro964,000) to help 35,000 people affected by Hurricane Dean. Money from the appeal will be used in the affected countries with basic supplies, including water purification tablets, blankets and sheets, flash lights and mosquito repellent, as well as replenish depleted relief stocks in the Caribbean.