by Linda Straker
Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, who is chairman of CARICOM, last week visited regional territories which were battered by Hurricane Irma and he has promised to work with them during the recovery and rebuilding stages.
By the time he completed that visit, another hurricane, Marie, was battering some of the same islands, plus others slightly touched by the storm’s category 5 winds. Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit informed that world via Facebook that Hurricane Marie brutalised the island.
In the Bahamas, Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield told Mitchell that the island embarked on its largest evacuation in its history, as a result of the recent passage of Hurricane Irma. “In this process, we have undertaken the largest evacuation in the history of the Bahamas. We moved something like more than 1,200 persons from South Eastern Bahamas,” Henfield said to a visiting CARICOM delegation which included Dr Mitchell and Secretary General Erin LaRocque.
Most affected was Ragged Island, a small fishing territory located on the southern side of the country. The majority of about 100 residents who live on the island were evacuated leaving about 8 persons to ride out the storm which battered mostly everything in its path.
“I think it speaks volumes of how these systems could be when you have to displace so many of your nationals,” Henfield said. “We really believe in the Bahamas that these systems are becoming more ferocious due to climate change.”
The CARICOM delegation also visited the Turks and Caicos Islands which suffered a multi-island hit from Irma. Last week the CARICOM chairman led his team to Barbuda, British Virgin Islands and Anguilla which also faced the wrath of Irma.
“We know the significance of this visit,” said Mitchell. “When we were destroyed in Grenada every visitor that came in 2004 particularly the leadership of the region, it lifted us up…It lifted our spirits because we were battered in the true sense of the word.”
Premier Sharlene Cartwright Robinson told the delegation that Turks and Caicos is open for business as life returns to normal. “We are on the road to recovery,” said Cartwright ahead of her cabinet’s first meeting since the hurricane, planned for Tuesday.
“We are rebounding well but we are going to build back and build back stronger.”
“Our priority very quickly was to get communications going. We have been facilitating them to get electricity back up and we are also going to supplement efforts of our electricity company,” the premier disclosed.
Hurricane Irma damaged 95% of homes on the island of South Caicos, 100% of homes on Salt Cay and about 60% of houses on the country’s capital, Grand Turks.