Deadly and Catastrophic Events


by Caribupdate Weekly

The past few weeks in the Americas – from Florida, Texas and Mexico on the North American continent, to the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean – have been deadly and catastrophic for millions of people. It’s been one natural disaster after another, including 4 hurricanes: Harvey, Irma, Jose and Katia; and a devastating earthquake.

Harvey dominated the news headlines, particularly in the United States, when it sent the people of Houston, Texas, scampering from their homes to avoid being washed away by days of record-breaking rains. Business and homeowners suffered millions of dollars in losses, and Harvey’s coverage on CNN and other networks replaced the intriguing shenanigans of President Donald Trump and his associates, and the investigation into getting to the bottom of any connections they may have had with the Russians.

Irma, Jose and Katia followed closely on the heels of Harvey, impacting Florida, Mexico and Caribbean countries such as Cuba, Haiti, The Bahamas, Barbuda, Anguilla and the US and British Virgin Islands.

Mexico suffered the double whammy of being hit by Hurricane Katia and a magnitude 8.1 earthquake. The death toll in Mexico from the combined events was almost 100.

Hurricane-related incidents caused close to 30 other fatalities in the Caribbean; the highest number — 10 — was in Cuba. Undoubtedly, Irma’s devastation is a major setback for our relatively poor regional island-nations. Reconstruction and rebuilding are expected to cost not millions — but billions of dollars.

Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, in his capacity as CARICOM Chairman, this week visited the Hurricane-affected territories of the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Barbuda and Antigua. “I expected some of what I saw,’’ the prime minister said Wednesday on his return to Grenada. “But, honestly, I didn’t expect the level of destruction and devastation that I witnessed.’’

Dr Mitchell said plans are being made to convene an international donor conference in the Caribbean on reconstruction aid, with invitations to attend to be sent to organisations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

However, none of the funds that are likely to be raised from the conference is expected to benefit Cuba. That’s because Cuban access to assistance from international agencies, like the IMF and World Bank, is restricted because of the US blockade of Cuba.

Hence, we concur with Grenadians such as trade unionist Chester Humphrey, President of the Senate, who have been advocating for special attention to be given to Cuba during the current hurricane relief campaign that is now underway throughout Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

As Humphrey correctly argues, “no other country has helped Grenada as much as Cuba’’; and, now that Cuba is in critical need of assistance because of the destruction of Hurricane Irma, the senator believes that Grenadians must do their bit — “no matter how small it is — to show to the people of Cuba that they don’t stand alone’’ and to demonstrate to the government of Cuba that Grenadians “appreciate all that Cuba has done and continues to do, even in the face of their own adversity.’’

The series of natural disasters, and their ferocity are certain to intensify debate about the reasons for this deadly phenomenon.

Very many scientists are convinced that the rapid manifestation of these hurricanes and earthquakes is the inevitable effects of climate change that will continue to wreak havoc in the years to come. Coastline and low elevation areas, such as exist in Grenada and other Caribbean territories, are said to be at the greatest risk of being negatively impacted by climate change, which is blamed for rising sea levels and extreme weather events, including more-powerful hurricanes.

But, scientists are not the only people opining on the cause of today’s natural disasters. So, too, are those whom writer Dana Milbank describes as ‘End-Times pastors’ and right-wing provocateurs. These groups, according to Milbank, include disgraced American televangelist Jim Bakker.

After Hurricane Harvey, Bakker declared that ‘this flood is from God,’ punishment for the former mayor of Houston attempting to subpoena ministers’ sermons, Milbank writes in The Washington Post.

“Likewise,’’ she continues, “Pastor Kevin Swanson has said the path of Hurricane Irma would be altered by God if the Supreme Court quickly made abortion and gay marriage illegal.”

Well-known US right-wing radio talkshow host, Rush Limbaugh, offered his own views, claiming that Hurricane Irma is not an act of God but a case of liberal media hype to make people believe that climate change is real. “There is a desire to advance this climate change agenda, and hurricanes are one of the fastest and best ways to do it,” Limbaugh argued.

There is a saying that those who feel it know it. And, that’s the situation facing us who live in the Caribbean. We may not be able to definitely argue whether climate change is, or is not, an act of God. However, what we do know and see are rising sea levels, and we feel the impact of powerful hurricanes such as Ivan in 2004 and Irma in 2017.

We’d bet that Gaston Browne, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, spoke for most Caribbean people when he told a CNN interviewer that island-nations are ‘living the consequences of climate change.’

Browne said, ‘storms are more ferocious’ and they also are ‘coming in greater frequency.’ This, he said, is ‘evidence that climate change is real.’

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