Global Voices: Haiti

The Caribbean Comes Together After Hurricane Irma

Global Voices: Haiti - Fri, 09/08/2017 - 12:28

A public Facebook status update posted by Trinidadian Wendell Manwarren after hearing of the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma, which reads, “Time to Rally, Caribbean People.”

It is unusually still in the Caribbean. With nary a breeze, the heat is almost oppressive. But as hurricanes cut a path through the region, skies will turn from blue to menacing grey, and sunshine to downpour in a New York minute — and this is happening further down the archipelago, in territories that weren't even in Hurricane Irma‘s direct path of the northern Leeward Islands.

But despite the lethargy that the weather is inflicting, people are energised, banding together to send supplies, money, and other forms of relief to those affected.

The strongest storm of the Atlantic hurricane season since Wilma in 2005, packing wind speeds of up to 185 mph (295 km/h), Irma quickly became a Category 5 cyclone powerful enough to be picked up by seismographic equipment:

Seismometer recordings from the past 48 hours on Guadeloupe show Cat. 5 #Hurricane #Irma driving closer toward the Lesser Antilles pic.twitter.com/9y3Nuv2Z9E

— Stephen Hicks (@seismo_steve) September 5, 2017

With the nation of Antigua and Barbuda in the front line on the night of September 5, 2017, there were serious concerns about the country's ability to handle the onslaught:

#Irma is now gone off the scale – it is now a Cat 5+ with 175 mph sustained winds – may the lord bless our soulshttps://t.co/1k4T1exGMF? pic.twitter.com/z0QwFp8r7u

— Antigua Met Service (@anumetservice) September 5, 2017

The smaller of the two islands, Barbuda, was practically flattened and for a time, all communication was lost. By September 6, the prime minister was calling for a complete evacuation of the island, saying it was “uninhabitable”. The damage was so widespread that there was nowhere left for people to shelter in safety — especially since Hurricane Jose is hot on Irma's heels, and seems intent on battering the same targets.

From Jamaica, Facebook user Annie Paul posted:

A Facebook status update by Annie Paul, in which she says, “What's really worrying is that Jose is chasing behind Irma like this…”

Barbuda recorded one hurricane-related fatality on the island, and it is astounding that there weren't more. Videos of the aftermath quickly began circulating on instant messaging platforms like WhatsApp and social media channels. There were accounts likening the experience to a horror movie: people running from house to house as roofs were blown off, 40-ft. containers “flying through the air”, and “cars flying over our heads”.

‘Let's look out for our own, for we are ONE CARIBBEAN’

As Irma continued to wreak havoc, more and more islands were added to the list:

Facebook status update from Holly Bynoe: “Barbuda, St. Martin/Maarten, Saba, St. Bart's, Tortola, Anagarda, Virgin Gorda. My heart breaks.”

We forget the Turks & Caicos Islands. In Irma's path, N of Haiti. High point abt 140 ft above sea level. Full of Haitian/J'can/DR workers

— Judy Raymond (@heyjudeTT) September 5, 2017

Citizen media videos coming out of Tortola were also distressing.

Netizens soon started asking for suggestions as to the best way to help, and contact information for any trustworthy organisations that would be coordinating relief efforts. Even those who had been through the deluge themselves, but fared better than places like Barbuda and St. Maarten, were concerned about the welfare of their neighbours. From St. Kitts, Dele Adams said:

Hi guys! Thanks for checking in. We in St. Kitts

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