Diaspora, region rally around devastated Eastern Caribbean islands

By Caribbean News Now contributor

NEW YORK, USA — The Caribbean Diaspora and other countries in the region have begun relief efforts to assist the Eastern Caribbean islands of Dominica, Saint Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines to recover from widespread devastation caused by severe rains, flooding and high winds from a low level trough system that impacted the area on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The high winds and torrential rains resulted in land slippage and overflowing rivers, causing a number of deaths, destruction and severe damage in the three islands.

According to a report on Saturday by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), damage and needs assessment teams have been deployed. Preliminary impact assessment and immediate needs have been identified and more detailed damage assessment reports will be forthcoming.

CDEMA continues to be in contact with the affected islands and is providing technical advice in support of the needs assessment process.

The regional response mechanism has been mobilized and the coordinating unit is liaising with Barbados, the sub-regional focal point of the central sub-region in the coordination of relief efforts.

Technical support personnel in engineering have been placed on standby through the University of the West Indies. The Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology has placed a technical team on standby to address needs in the area of hydrological impact and needs assessment.

The United Nations resident coordinator for Barbados and the OECS and the executive director of CDEMA convened a meeting of the Eastern Caribbean Development Partners Group on Disaster Management (ECDPG DM) on Friday in Barbados.

The meeting reviewed the event and impacts to the affected countries, assess needs and developed a plan of action for next steps, which includes the provision of targeted support in the areas of health.

Emergency supplies and personnel were due to be deployed into St Vincent and the Grenadines and Saint Lucia on Saturday and Dominica on Sunday.

Trinidad and Tobago has provided two containers of relief supplies to Saint Lucia, which included bottled water, hygiene kits, food, cleaning equipment, water purification tablets and much more. Similar supplies are to be sent to St Vincent within the coming days.

A shipment of supplies has been sent by the Open Campus of The University of the West Indies (UWI) to St Vincent and the Grenadines through the services of the Barbados Coast Guard. Pro vice chancellor and principal, Professor Hazel Simmons-McDonald, said that a team in the Open Campus is coordinating efforts with staff and colleagues across the region to gather contributions to support relief efforts for those affected by the severe flooding.

“The UWI Open Campus has students, staff, clients, stakeholders and advisors living in the areas impacted by the floods, especially in Dominica, Saint Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines. These countries have been part of our university community since the 1950’s and we want to do our part to help them especially in this time of need,” Simmons-McDonald said.

“We are seeking donations in cash and kind to help assist with much needed disaster recovery efforts and to meet the critical needs of affected residents who have been hard hit by evacuations, power outages and water shortages. We are asking our Open Campus and sister campuses to help with donations in our efforts to meet basic needs by providing essential items like canned foods, baby formula, powdered milk, rice, flour, clothing, cots, sheets, blankets, baby diapers and hygiene kits.

“We expect to send shipments to Saint Lucia and Dominica and additional shipments to St Vincent early in the week,” said the principal.

Contributions may be made through all UWI Open Campus country site locations across the region. Contact information for Open Campus Country Sites may be found online at www.open.uwi.edu/locations. Queries about making cash donations directly to assigned bank accounts across the region may be sent to principal@open.uwi.edu

Meanwhile, Diaspora organisations in the US and Britain are collecting relief supplies and donations.

In New York, Trish St Hill, founder and CEO of Ajani Publishing, described the Friends of Crown Heights Center in Brooklyn as packed from wall to wall with people eagerly sorting, folding and packing relief supplies to aid those affected by the floods in St Vincent.

“We packed huge boxes of women’s clothing and one barrel of girls’ clothing. Other groups nearby worked on boys clothing, men’s clothing, toiletries and food, water and medical supplies,” she said.

Donations are still being accepted at the Friends of Crown Heights Center located at 671 Prospect Place in Brooklyn. Donations will also be accepted by Mirtha Colon at Casa Yurumein located at 874 Prospect Ave in the South Bronx, corner of Westchester Avenue. Cheques and money orders are welcomed and should be made out to “SVG Community INC.”

In addition to monetary donations, items needed are as follows:

Medical supplies
Food items

The consulate of St Vincent and the Grenadines in New York, along with a number of Vincentian organisations in the United States, is also spearheading a relief effort to be sent to St Vincent with the help of Amerijet.

To this end, they are seeking assistance in donating money, food, clothing, toiletries, water, medical supplies or whatever can be contributed.

Donations of money should be made by cheque or money order payable to the Consulate of St Vincent and the Grenadines New York (marked SVG Disaster Relief).

For further information, contact Consul General Selmon Walters (347-634-1877), Edson Augustus (347-414-0477), Lavern McDowald (347-385-6227) or Narissa Morris (646-522-1551).

In Houston, Texas, the Caribbean American Heritage Foundation of Texas (CAHFT) and the Saint Lucian Foundation of Texas (SLFT) started fundraising efforts, to assist the citizens of Saint Lucia in the recovery from the devastating Christmas Eve storm. Their efforts include supplies such as water, clothing, medical supplies, non-perishable foods and any other items and services needed to assist in restoring the island back to its normal way of life.

“We stand ready and willing to assist Saint Lucia is any and every way possible to bring relief to our citizens and to help them restore and resume their daily lives,” said Peter Lyn René, chairman and CEO of CAHFT and chairman of SLFT.

Camille St Omer, a member of CAHFT and board member of SLFT residing in the New York City area, is coordinating relief efforts in the northeast Tri-State area.

The foundations are currently working with groups on the ground in Saint Lucia to determine how best they can assist Saint Lucia recover from the devastating storm.

Donations for the relief effort for Saint Lucia can be made securely online at: https://www.wepay.com/donations/st.-lucia-flood-victims

People living in Britain, who wish to help families in Saint Lucia in the aftermath of the Christmas storm, should contact Dr Ernest Hilaire High Commissioner of Saint Lucia, 1 Collingham Gardens, Earls Court, London SW5 0HW, England, Tel: 011 (44207) 370 7123 Fax: 011 (44207) 7370 1905 Email: ehilaire@gosl.gov.lc

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