Hurricane Ivan devastates a community in Jamaica

Published: 17 September 2004 0:00 CET

Marko Kokic in Kingston, Jamaica

“I was in bed and I heard a loud bang, and it felt like the walls were collapsing in my bedroom. I woke up my grandchildren and we rushed into the hallway and as we did the bedroom roof flew off. We rushed into the bathroom and soon there too the roof blew off… we finally made our way to the kitchen and the roof blew off there as well. We spent the entire night under the table lying in water and praying,” describes Ivy Jarred, the night Hurricane Ivan struck her community.

“It was terrifying. You don’t think about your belongings, just about surviving. It was totally traumatic,” adds Ivy’s neighbor, Michelle Sellers.

Portland Cottage, home to several thousand residents, located within the southern most tip of Jamaica was one of the closest to the eye of the storm. Winds reaching over 200 km/h tore away zinc sheets used for roofing launching them through the air like giant razor blades. Trees remain stripped bare of leaves. In some places only the concrete foundations are left as evidence that houses once existed there.

Ubiquitous pools remain, some large and deep, some with small fish darting around. Debris, clothing and furniture are scattered everywhere. explains, Winston Maragh, Town Counselor
“This portion of Clarendon Parish got a battering. Not only did hurricane winds strike the area but we got four to five foot storm surges coming in from the west and the east. To the north a river overflowed its banks causing even more flooding”.

Ivan killed 15 people in Jamaica, 8 of which were in Portland Cottage. “When the winds destroyed my sister’s house, she took her four grandchildren to seek shelter in another house.
They were all swept away by the storm surge and drowned,” says Archibald Gopie.

Many residents who have lost their homes are staying with friends and relatives whose houses remained intact. For another 170 people the local primary school is serving as a shelter.
For residents of Portland Cottage the road to recovery will be long, but they are not alone.

The Jamaica Red Cross began distributing relief goods to the community on Tuesday.
Speaking of Portland Cottage after an evaluation mission, says Sheena Vaccianie, chairperson of Clarendon Red Cross Branch, “This community needs everything. They have lost all the basic necessities; food, water and shelter”.

Four cargo planes filled with Federation relief supplies (tarpaulins, kitchen sets, hygiene parcels, jerry cans, blankets, flashlights) have already arrived since Monday. Red Cross branches and their volunteers in Clarendon, Kingston, St. Andrew, Manchester, St Elizabeth, St Thomas, Trelawny, Hanover, St Mary, St Catherine and St Ann parishes have begun to distribute these relief items to people affected by the hurricane. Portland Cottage remains one of the priority zones.

“Our quick response in providing those in need is thanks to the assistance afforded us by the Federation, by the kind support of international and local donors, and especially by the hard work of our many committed volunteers who have been working tirelessly in bringing relief and comfort to so many of the thousands affected by this terrible disaster,” says Yvonne Clarke, Director General of Jamaica Red Cross.