Trinidad and Tobago responds to Windwards hurricane disaster:

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A family starts repairs on their home which was damaged by Hurricane Beryl on
July 1 in St Vincent. – AP PHOTO

The Prime Minister has opened up TT to child victims of Hurricane Beryl and is organising to send relief supplies to Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) after Hurricane Beryl devastated both countries.

In a Facebook post, PM Dr Keith Rowley said Caricom Heads met in a virtual session on the morning of July 2 and received updated reports by Grenada PM Dickon Mitchell and SVG PM Ralph Gonsalves.

Hurricane Beryl left four dead and millions of dollars in damages but Caricom countries were banding together and were in the process of providing aid to the beleaguered countries.

When Beryl made landfall on Carriacou, an island of Grenada, it also hit the nearby SVG. When the eye of the hurricane passed over Carriacou at 11.10 am on July 1, the hurricane was a Category 4 storm. Later that day it strengthened to Category 5, a hurricane with sustained winds above 157 mph, the earliest Category 5 storm of a hurricane season on record in the Atlantic Basin.

During a press briefing on July 1, SVG PM Ralph Gonsalves said Union Island had been devastated and the roof of the island’s airport was gone, along with those of many other buildings. There was also damage to the islands of Mayreau, Canouan and Bequia, where there was one confirmed death.

When Newsday called Gonsalves on July 2, he was on his way to tour Union Island. He said he would give an update on the situation in his country the next day.

According to a CMC news report, at a news conference in the capital St George’s, Mitchell said the hurricane “flattened” Carriacou and damaged the neighbouring island of Petite Martinique. One death was reported in St George when a tree fell on a house and two on Carriacou. He said there were “possibly more.”

He said a helicopter was requested from other countries in the region to visit Carriacou as the Coast Guard would not be able to deal with the seas, which were still very rough. But a larger vessel would take the Commissioner of Police, security officers and some technocrats to Carriacou to assess the situation.

He also said movement around the islands was restricted as the government was unable to clear the roads due to a lack of fuel for heavy-duty machines and downed utility lines.

Rowley said the government was mobilising relief supplies to be urgently despatched by marine crafts on the night of July 2.

“Given the level of total devastation experienced on these islands, the government of TT, acknowledging the deep familial ties between these islands and TT, has offered to allow school-age children from the devastated zones to be allowed into TT if they have family here, who may wish to house them during the school holiday period, which is upon us at this time.”

This is not the first time Rowley has opened TT’s doors to Caricom neighbours after a natural disaster.

On September 21, 2017, at a post-Cabinet press conference, he announced the same for the people of Dominica after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. He said TT was not able to contribute financially to Dominica’s recovery efforts but it would allow Dominicans who were able to find somewhere to stay in TT to visit without the usual restrictions on entry for six months. Dr Amery Browne, Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs, told Newsday the government reached out to both Grenada and SVG and was sending them emergency supplies.

“I have been working closely with our Minister of Trade and Industry and other arms of Government and the TT private sector is also responding in an exemplary manner. Prime Minister Rowley has instructed that best effort be made to get supplies across swiftly and efficiently, and we are doing exactly that.”

Browne said many boats and ships from up the islands, including ferries and a barge, came to TT for safe anchorage during the hurricane. These included several maritime assets from Grenada. He said initially, for efficiency, some of those vessels will be used to send supplies.

He added that, so far, the government received no emergency requests for assistance from TT nationals in any of the affected countries. And the TT’s Honorary Consul in Grenada was being used to collate information on affected TT nationals.

In addition to TT, Guyana was also making moves to assist Grenada.

A CMC report out of Guyana on July 2 said it was loading relief material, including tarpaulins, chainsaws, generators, batteries, torch lights, safety vests, hygiene items, water purification tablets and collapsible water bottles on several flights.

Gonsalves said Guyanese President Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali also promised to send construction materials to Kingstown.

In a news release on July 1, Ali, who is also the chairman of Caricom, encouraged individuals and the private sector to coordinate with their governments and emergency response mechanisms to provide support and relief to those affected by Beryl.

“This is a time for all of us as a regional community to stand together and extend our support to those impacted or likely to be impacted by Hurricane Beryl. Let us mobilise the necessary assistance and relief efforts in the true spirit of regional solidarity.

“Together, we can overcome the adversities posed by this hurricane and ensure the safety and well-being of all our peoples and communities.”

A state of emergency was declared in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique from 7 pm on June 30, ahead of the arrival of Beryl, and water was turned off from 9 pm. The curfew was lifted on the morning of July 2.

To conserve her phone battery life, journalist Linda Straker said via WhatsApp that up to mid-afternoon on July 2, many areas in Grenada still had no water, electricity or internet except mobile data, but the companies responsible for utilities were assessing the damage to reinstate services.

“My personal experience is it was traumatising for a long time and I pray we don’t go through that again.

“It’s not easy feeling your house shaking from this wind that was talking and singing to every genre. I am confident that because I built my home to the new building code endorsed after hurricane Ivan, and so did others, that so many homes on the mainland survived.”

Curlan Campbell, a freelance journalist in Grenada, told Newsday the Red Cross collected essential supplies from local supermarkets and small businesses, and a boat-load of food, toiletries and other supplies were sent to Carriacou around 10 am on July 2. He said that even though there was a death in St George’s, in general, the south of the island was not hit very hard by the hurricane. There were mostly fallen trees and the homes had minor water damage. He said at the north of the island, people had already started to clear the roads and work on home repairs. He said in St George’s, electricity returned early on the night of July 1 and water returned the next morning. But he said in other parts of the south, neither had returned, and it was the same for the north.

“But Grenadians are very resilient. Some of them are actually collecting water from or washing in the river. So we will make do until we get back all the essential services.”

Kwesi Lockhart, a resident of Kingstown, the capital of SVG, said there was a lot of infrastructure damage to private homes in his area. He had no electricity since the passing of Beryl due to damaged utility polls and some areas still had no water as there was also damage to water mains. The phone service was also down until the afternoon of July 2. He said many trees and utility polls fell, roofs of homes were blown off and boats along the coast were damaged by the high winds and rough seas, but there was a lot more damage along the east coast.

“We always hear about hurricane coming but it never really hit us. So I didn’t really go the extra mile to actually prepare for it. I honestly thought it could have passed us and we would have just gotten some rain. I was very wrong with that one.

“I don’t think I’ve ever went through a Category 4 hurricane before. The way the wind was blowing; it was unbelievable. It was really scary and all you could see was debris flying in the air from people’s houses. It was really devastating.”

According to the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Beryl is expected to “bring life-threatening winds and storm surge” to Jamaica on July 3 and the Cayman Islands on the night of July 3 into July 4. It is also expected to continue to the south of Hispaniola.