Irma devastates Caribbean

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The Interim Executive Director of UMCOR shares an update on Irma’s damage in the Caribbean.

On September 11, 2017 this update on the storm damage from Hurricane Irma was issued by Dr. Olusimbo Kehinde Ige, Interim Executive Director of UMCOR. (Source data is ACT Alliance.)

Hurricane Irma was one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic, a category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 295 km/hour.

On September 9th it has passed over Barbuda, Saint Barthelemy, Anguilla, Saint Marten, British and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Turks and Caicos, Cuba, the Bahamas on its way to Florida.

Extensive damage has been reported in Barbuda and Anguilla where 70-90% of the buildings were destroyed. 27 people reported dead across affected territories, 34,000 people displaced in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Over 1 million people were evacuated along the coastline in central and eastern Cuba. 17,000 people are in need of immediate shelter across the affected eastern Caribbean islands. Assessments will take place over the coming days to determine the number of people in need of food assistance. More than 10,000 people are in temporary shelters in the North. The damage to the Dominican Republic was less than expected, with no fatalities reported. There is damage to water infrastructure that affects 1.2 million people, according to the national water authorities.

Livelihoods in affected communities are anticipated to be an area of need when recovery efforts begin. Widespread flooding has been recorded in northern Cuba as well including Havana, there has also been significant damage to farms including swine and poultry.

Concerns have also been raised about possible waterborne disease outbreaks as flooding is likely to persist for 36 hours at least. Most of the coastal municipalities in affected countries are without electricity.

Given the level of damage so far, Haiti and Cuba are likely to be our first areas of response outside of the US and US territories, this is because of the significant level of damage and our Methodist connections in these countries. UMCOR is awaiting response from the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas (MCCA) about support to Barbuda and Anguilla.

UMCOR will continue to monitor Irma’s impact on the Caribbean and provide updates. Please consider making a generous donation to UMCOR’s International disaster recovery work: Disaster Response, International (#982450). Click here to make an online donation.

United Methodist News Service reported on September 11 that Bishop Ricardo Pereira of the Methodist Church in Cuba was traveling to the provinces affected by Hurricane Irma.

The Ciego de Avila and Camaguey provinces were hard hit, including the small coastal city of Caibarien, and water surged over the Malecon, Havana’s famous seawall, flooding parts of the Cuban capital.

In an email to United Methodist News Service, Margarita Aboy, the bishop’s assistant, reported that much of island nation suffered hurricane damage, especially in the center of Cuba. “For the most part we have no electricity or water, and communication is poor,” she wrote.

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