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Some in Houston wary of helping Puerto Rico

Hurricane relief concert: All 5 living ex-presidents put politics aside, call for unity

 By Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas  — The five living former presidents put aside politics and appeared together for the first time since 2013 at a concert on Saturday to raise money for victims of devastating hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Democrats Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and Republicans George H.W. and George W. Bush gathered in College Station, Texas, home of Texas A&M University, to try to unite the country after the storms.

Texas A&M is home to the presidential library of the elder Bush. At 93, he has a form of Parkinson’s disease and appeared in a wheelchair at the event. His wife, Barbara, and George W. Bush’s wife, Laura, were in the audience.

Grammy award winner Lady Gaga made a surprise appearance at the concert that also featured country music band Alabama, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer ‘Soul Man’ Sam Moore, gospel legend Yolanda Adams and Texas musicians Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen.

The appeal backed by the ex-presidents has raised $31 million since it began on Sept. 7, said Jim McGrath, spokesman for George H.W. Bush.

President Donald Trump offered a video greeting that avoided his past criticism of the former presidents and called them “some of America’s finest public servants.”

Some in Houston wary of helping Puerto Rico

Some in Houston wary of helping Puerto Rico

Those who voted for Trump debate how much support the federal government should give Puerto Rico.

“This wonderful effort reminds us that we truly are one nation under God, all unified by our values and devotion to one another,” Trump said in the greeting, played during the concert.

Four of the five former presidents — Obama, George W. Bush, Carter and Clinton — made brief remarks that did not mention Trump. The elder Bush did not speak but smiled and waved to the crowd. They appealed for national unity to help those hurt by the hurricanes.

“The heart of America, without regard to race or religion or political party, is greater than our problems,” said Clinton.

The last time the five were together was in 2013, when Obama was still in office, at the dedication of George W. Bush’s presidential library in Dallas.

There is precedent for former presidents joining forces for post-disaster fundraising. George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton raised money together after the 2004 South Asia tsunami and Hurricane Katrina the next year. Clinton and George W. Bush combined to seek donations after Haiti’s 2011 earthquake.

“It’s certainly a triple, if not a home run, every time,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “Presidents have the most powerful and prolific fundraising base of any politician in the world. When they send out a call for help, especially on something that’s not political, they can rake in big money.”

Much of Puerto Rico still dark, dry, frustrated

Much of Puerto Rico still dark, dry, frustrated

Much of the island lies in the chokehold of a turgid, frustrating and perilous slog toward recovery.

Amid criticism that his administration was initially slow to aid ravaged Puerto Rico, Trump accused island leaders of “poor leadership,” and later tweeted that, “Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes” while saying that Federal Emergency Management Agency, first-responders and military personnel wouldn’t be able to stay there forever.

But Rottinghaus said ex-presidents are seen as less polarizing than the current president.


“They can’t get away from the politics of the moment,” he said of current White House occupants. “Ex-presidents are able to step back and be seen as the nation’s grandfather.”

Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast as a Category 4 hurricane on Aug. 25, unleashing historic flooding in Houston and killing more than 80 people. Shortly thereafter, all five ex-presidents appeared in a commercial for a fundraising effort known as “One America Appeal.” In it, George W. Bush says, “People are hurting down here.” His father, George H.W. Bush, then replies, “We love you, Texas.”

Hurricane Irma subsequently hit Florida and Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico, while both devastated the U.S. Virgin Islands.

A website accepting donations,, was created with 100 percent of proceeds pledged to hurricane relief.

Is Puerto Rico Trump's Katrina?

Is Puerto Rico Trump’s Katrina?

Though Trump has staunchly defended his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, his critics blame his slow response and mismanagement for turning the crisis into an even worse disaster.

–By Will Weissert

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Joy Jibrilu

Caribbean bracing for decline in visitor arrivals due to hurricane damage

By Linda Straker

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada, Oct 13, CMC – The Caribbean is predicting a slowdown in the growth of tourist arrivals for the remainder of the year as the region comes to grips with the destruction caused by three hurricanes that left trains of death and destruction when they made their way through the Lesser Antilles last month.

Chairman of the board of directors of the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), Joy Jibrilu, addressing a news conference on the final day of the State of the Tourist Industry Conference (SOTIC 2017), told reporters that the Caribbean had been performing at a healthy growth rate of 5.2 per cent between January and June, when compared to the same period last year.

Joy Jibrilu
Joy Jibrilu

She said that the growth during that period reflected economic stability in the market, expansion and inauguration of flights by major carriers, and new marketing and product development initiatives.

“During the first six months, the region recorded 16.6 million international tourist arrivals, some 800 thousand more than in the first six months of 2016. Growth was recorded in all major source markets except South America, which contracted by 14.3 per cent,” she said.

She said that up to June, the European market had grown by 7.9 per cent, Canada by 6.4 per cent and, despite the weak Sterling currency, the United Kingdom had registered 4.8 per cent growth.

Jibrilu said that the half-year outcomes reported by STR Global showed that average hotel occupancy increased marginally by 0.2 percentage points to 70.8 per cent, while the average daily room rate rose slightly by 0.2 per cent, moving from US$220.84 in 2016 to US$221.38 in 2017.

“Like tourist arrivals, growth in the cruise sector also remained positive and stronger than the expected performance in the first half of the year. At the end of the first six months of 2017, it is estimated that cruise passenger arrivals to the Caribbean region had reached 15.3 million, 4.0 per cent more than in the corresponding period of 2016. This performance represented the largest number of cruise passengers in the region at this time of year,” she said.

However, with the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the growth rate will slow down in the remaining quarters of the year. As a result, the expected growth rate of tourist arrivals will range between one and two per cent in 2017, with the 2018 performance expected to be similar she said.

Jibrilu told reporters that while being sensitive to the impacted members of the CTO family, “we were also challenged to consider ways to tell the world that most of the Caribbean remains open for business” following the storms.

“We recognised that there is a need by consumers, the media and even travel industry professionals, of a greater understanding of the geography of the region,” she said, adding that there was general agreement that the Caribbean – both public and private sectors – must find the funds to get the message out.

During the meeting here, delegates discussed ideas on how to emerge from the hard times, bigger, stronger and more sustainable and Jibrilu said it was also an opportunity for the affected countries to share their stories and garner support.

She said the discussions will help to inform into the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO),  Jamaica government, World Bank Group and Inter-American Development Bank Global Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth, scheduled for November 27-29 in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Jibrilu said Jamaica’s Tourism Minister, Ed Bartlett, chaired a high-level meeting with the aim of developing a strategic framework for the establishment of a Global Caribbean Tourism Recovery Team (GCTRT) to coordinate the tourism product restoration efforts.

“It was agreed that a Global Caribbean Tourism Recovery Team (GCTRT) would be established under the chairmanship of Minister Bartlett, and would include representatives of the CHTA, CTO, the WTTC and the UNWTO,” she said, adding that a secretariat will be established, with responsibility for coordinating the technical support, capacity building, communication strategy, multilateral and bilateral agency engagement, as well as the management of public/private partnership arrangements regarding the restoration of the tourism product across the Caribbean.

The secretariat will have its first meeting later in October, when the formal strategic framework and governance structure will be developed.

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Dominica 8

Caribbean disaster experts to discuss ways to assist region during SOTIC conference

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Oct 4, CMC – Leading experts in disaster preparedness and mitigation, recovery, funding, airport development and maintenance among other stakeholders will meet in Grenada net week to discuss ways on how the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) conference in Jamaica in November can assist Caribbean countries battered by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett Wednesday said that the four hour discussions will be held on October 12 as part of the weeklong Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) State of the Tourism Industry Conference (SOTIC) to be held in St. George’s.

Dominica 8He said it is the hope that the outcome of the meeting could into the special session of the November 27-29 UNWTO conference in Jamaica “and that a document will emerge from SOTIC which will help to inform that session at the Jamaica/UNWTO summit”.

“Recover & Rebuild will focus on the economic cost of the disasters, including the potential impact on gross domestic product, employment, the cost to rebuild and the recovery time. Key recommendations emerging from Recover & Rebuild will form part of the comprehensive document which we believe will have industry-wide international significance,” Bartlett said.

He said he was urging all stakeholders within the tourism industry to attend both the Grenada and Jamaica meetings adding that “these two crucial events will help set the course for recovery and growth for all of us over the next year and shape the future of tourism for the Caribbean region”.

Several Caribbean countries, notably, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, St. Maarten were battered by the hurricanes last month as they made their way through the Lesser Antilles leaving a trail of death and destruction estimated at billions of dollars.

Bartlett said that Jamaica “continues to extend our thoughts and prayers to our Caribbean brothers and sisters” and recognises that the entire Caribbean region will be adversely impacted by the lasting results of two hurricanes.

He said Kingston has recognised the efforts of the Barbados-based CTO, in conjunction with the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) as well as the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) in assisting the region and ensuring that timely and accurate information is disseminated.

“We are aware that CTO and CDEMA technical teams have been on the ground in the various islands doing rapid needs assessments and coordinating with the national authorities in managing the various interventions, to mitigate the pain and hardships that are so pervasive at this time.”

He said a meeting held last month in China of the UNWTO and attended by 10 countries from the Caribbean and Latin America agreed on the need “to assist in the Caribbean natural disaster risk management and response initiatives” and to include in the Jamaica conference an opportunity for all interested parties to discuss and implement a plan of action.

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Karolin Toubetzkoy

Regional hoteliers launch “One Caribbean Family” initiative

MIAMI, Oct 3, CMC – The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) has launched a booking initiative that allows hotels across the region to help those who have been adversely impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

The CHTA said that the initiative will also highlight the fact that more than 70 per cent of Caribbean destinations have not been affected and are ready to welcome visitors as usual.

Karolin Toubetzkoy
Karolin Toubetzkoy

CHTA said that it’s “One Caribbean Family” movement has been developed to help the vital tourism industry get back on its feet and will serve as a hub for hotels, travel advisors and tour operators who would like to make a contribution through guest bookings.

It said donations made through the initiative are sent to the Caribbean Tourism Recovery Fund managed by Tourism Cares, a non-profit organization which has partnered with CHTA to anchor the tourism industry’s hurricane recovery efforts in the Caribbean.

“We want to show our solidarity with the Caribbean countries affected by these storms, not just in words but with actions that can bring relief to those in need,” said CHTA president, Karolin Troubetzkoy.

She said while she is encouraged by the initial pledges of support for the One Caribbean Family initiative by some of the region’s hotels and international tour operators and travel advisors, she would like to see more Caribbean hotels and trade partners come on board.

“How can any hotel or hotel chain in the region and our trade partners feel good about securing incremental business as a result of hotel closures due to hurricanes?”

“While this may sound idealistic, the need to come together and act as one Caribbean tourism family has never been greater,” she said, applauding the tourism industry partners who have launched fundraising initiatives of their own, but hopes these will not deter them from also participating in the One Caribbean Family initiative.

“To bring aid to the countries and the people who were affected will be an enormous task, and the One Caribbean Family initiative is a unique way to spread the good word that most of the Caribbean is open for business while helping those destinations most in need,” she opined.

Troubetzkoy said her company is pledging to donate up to US$50 for each booking for travel between October 1, 2017 and December 19, 2018.

“We started this pledge for direct reservations and bookings through our travel advisors, but now we are also including some wholesalers who will match our donation,” she said, adding that guests wishing to make additional contributions to the Fund will receive resort credits up to US$250, depending on their contribution.

“When any part of the region is affected, it hits us so close to home, because the entire Caribbean is our home,” she said, adding “this is one tangible way our tourism community can stand in solidarity with our neighbours.”

The Caribbean Tourism Recovery Fund allows tourism industry stakeholders and friends of the region throughout the world to pool their resources in support of vulnerable, devastated parts of the Caribbean that welcome millions of visitors in a region that supports 2.4 million tourism-related jobs.

The Fund’s focus on the recovery of islands directly affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria complements existing relief efforts and gives the tourism industry a way to leverage its resources to help the region bounce back, ideally better than before.

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Cash-strapped regional airline also affected by passage of hurricanes

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Oct 6, CMC – A senior official of the financially-strapped regional airline, LIAT, says the struggling Antigua-based carrier should be considered also for assistance as the region emerges from the devastation caused by the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria through the Lesser Antilles last month.

LIAT’s chief executive officer, Julie-Reifer Jones.

LIAT’s chief executive officer, Julie-Reifer Jones, made the suggestion on the side-lines of the presentation of a US$550,000 cheque by CIBC FirstCaribbean to assist with evacuation flights and other forms of relief for seven storm-battered territories, namely Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, St Kitts and Nevis, St Martin and Turks and Caicos Islands.

She said LIAT had suffered substantial losses as a result of the passage of the two hurricanes adding “frankly the discussions about relief efforts going forward should include relief efforts for LIAT.”

She said that the loss to the carrier’s network as a result of the recent storms had been estimated at more than four million US dollars and that LIAT  to date, had completed 54 relief flights to affected countries that were mostly “unfunded”.

“We are still in the process of refining these numbers but I would have to say between four to six million US dollars,” she said, adding that “we have been severely impacted by the removal of literally four territories out of the network overnight”.

Prior to the hurricanes, the regional airline had reported that it expected to record an EC$9.2 million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) loss at the end of this year.

Chairman of the airline’s shareholder governments, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said LIAT’s  budgeted total revenue for 2016 was EC$318.8 million, with a small net profit of  five million EC dollars reported up to August last year.

However, Gonsalves had also stated at the time that shareholders were considering a request to provide an additional five million EC dollars for the airline, which, once approved, would be divided between Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda, who along with Dominica are its four major shareholders.

But Reifer-Jones acknowledged that with the airline’s total bookings now down 24 per cent, a review of LIAT’s operations was necessary in the wake of the hurricanes.

“We are still in the process of doing an assessment of the full impact [of the storms]. But, I can tell you that it is substantial,” she said, adding that “we will have to step back and review how we go forward in terms of air transportation for the region.

“The issue for us, and this is based on our experience with hurricanes over the years, is that the recovery at the market is not immediate.

“So, it’s not just about the hurricanes. What you have to do is to look at the impact covering the next six to nine months,” Reifer-Jones said, while indicating that it had taken Dominica nine months to a year to return to “a normal state” for travel after Tropical Storm Erika struck the island in August 2015.

“So, during that time the amount of flights we had to Dominica were reduced from five to two and over time we increased to the normal levels,” she said while highlighting the need for a robust regional disaster planning system.

“We need to have a mechanism in place,” Reifer-Jones said, noting “these things have a cost on the regional air transportation services”.

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Hurricane releif aid from across the region and the world

Barbados Defence Force and fire service to assist hurricane battered Dominica

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Sep. 19, CMC –  A team of firemen from the Barbados Fire Service left the island on Tuesday for Dominica to render much needed assistance to the country that was devastated by Hurricane Maria late Monday.

Chief Fire Officer, Errol Maynard, confirmed that four teams were mobilised following an emergency meeting at the Bridgetown Fire Station on Tuesday morning and the teams will be rotated in the island over the next six weeks.

CDEMA He noted that all off duty personnel have beencalled into action to maintain numbers locally.

Maynard said the first team would include a commanding officer and six fire officers who were emergency management technicians and rescue personnel, to provide assistance to the country in those areas.

In addition, a four-man team is expected to be deployed to render assistance in Tortola  in the British Virgin Islands on Wednesday.

The rescue effort was being coordinated through the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).

Meanwhile, the Barbados Defence Force (BDF) is deploying a contingent to assist the Commonwealth of Dominica in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria

This disclosure has come from the BDF’s Public Relations Officer, Captain Maria Moore, who said humanitarian assistance and disaster relief would be provided to the island.

The BDF contingent is expected to be deployed within the next 12 hours aboard the HMBS Leonard C. Banfield.

Captain Moore added that Barbadians could also provide support to Dominicans by donating bottle water, medical/first aid supplies, canned foods, baby items and general hygiene products to the BDF at St. Ann’s Fort, Garrison, St. Michael, or the Barbados Coast Guard .

She said  the items will be taken when the Coast Guard vessel sets sail with BDF and Barbados Fire Service contingents.

As part of the BDF’s mandate, support is provided to the Regional Security System, Member States, CDEMA, CARICOM and the wider region.

Meanwhile, CDEMA’s Executive Director, Ronald Jackson on Tuesday said  Barbados will be the hub for the Dominica disaster response.

During a media briefing he disclosed that  members of the Rapid Assessment team, search and rescue personnel and a communications kit will depart for Dominica on Tuesday evening along with a CDEMA team .

He added that  units will also  be deployed from St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

It is expected that the Coast Guard vessel will arrive by 6 a.m. Wednesday morning and it will also be taking supplies from Barbados to Dominica, which, Jackson said, had depleted its own reserves while assisting sister islands affected by Hurricane Irma earlier this month.

“Dominica, through their own solidarity with some of the affected states, would have deployed a lot of their emergency relief items to the British Virgin Islands so they are currently without adequate relief supplies,” he explained, saying that Dominica has an immediate need for supplies to begin its national response to the disaster.

Jackson said based on the geography of Dominica, the rescue and relief operations will be “extremely complex”.

He said while communication on what is happening on the ground is still very sketchy, disaster officials are anticipating a series of landslides and rockfalls all over Dominica which, he said, will make access to very difficult via road or foot.

CDEMA was, however, able to confirm, through amateur radio contact with Dominica in the early afternoon, severe damage to Marigot on the northeastern side of island. .

According to Jackson, the entire population of Dominica, some 69 – 70,000 people, would face direct or indirect impacts from the hurricane, in terms of shelter, access or relief distribution.

Late Monday  Dominica’s  Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, who had earlier reported that he had to be “rescued’ from his own residence,  said in a Whatsapp message relayed by Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan that the world must know of the devastation to the island.

Skerrit, who had earlier reported that he had to be “rescued’ from his own residence,  said in a Whatsapp message relayed by Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan that the world must know of the devastation to the island.

World Council of Credit Unions activates Caribbean Relief Fund


BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Sep. 20, CMC – The World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) has activated a Caribbean Relief Fund to support credit unions that have been affected by Hurricane Irma that recently devastated sections of the Caribbean .

World Council of Credit UnionsAccording to the WOCCU, there are more than 10,000 active credit union members in Anguilla, Barbuda, Tortoal and St. Kitts Nevis – countries that felt the wrath of Irma, the most powerful Atlantic hurricane in recorded history.

Unofficial estimates from the Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions, a member of the World Council, indicate that approximately US$1.9 billion may be required for reconstruction in the affected countries.

“It is through these difficult times that out global community comes together to show its strength and reach beyond borders to help those in need,” said Brian Branch, the president and chief executive to WOCCU.

The WOCCU is raising funds through the Worldwide  Foundation of Credit Unions, its official gift receiving and grant making arm.

In addition to the Caribbean region, the foundation is raising funds to provide relief for those impacted by storms in the United States.

Over the past four years, the foundation has devlivered approximately US$1 million in aid to credit union organisations affected by natural disasters in the Philippines, Nepal, Ecuador, Malawi and Columbia.

Caribbean mobilizes to help Dominica

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Sep. 20, CMC – Member states within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) are preparing to offer assistance to Dominica following the passage of Hurricane Maria late Monday.

According CARICOM Chairman, Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell of Grenada, the situation is a challenging one.

Dominica “It is clear that we have a tremendous challenge on our hands, in the Caribbean region as a whole,” said Mitchell who was responding to the effects of Hurricane Maria in Dominica, said he spoke to his colleague Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit late Monday, during the passage of the hurricane.

Mitchell who was speaking to journalists on Wednesday pleaded with Grenadians to reach out to Dominicans “we, in Grenada must recognize that we have a tremendous responsibility to help out our brothers and sisters in Dominica and all other affected countries. This is about us, the region.”

Mitchell recently returned from the Turks and Caicos and several Islands in the Bahamas that were affected by Hurricane Irma last week.

And in St. Lucia following a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers, acting Prime Minister Lenard Montoute said plans were already underway to make St Lucia an operational base for the relief effort to Dominica.

“Right now our thoughts are with Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and the people of Dominica. Preliminary information is that we have widespread devastation in Dominica,” said Minister Montoute. “From our understanding they are facing a very critical situation and our prayers are with them, as our sister and neighbour. We have to respond and do what we can to assist our brothers and sisters in Dominica.”

He also said that communication has been made with the French and Venezuelan authorities in terms of assistance.

“St Lucia will be used as the base for relief efforts into Dominica because, as you can well appreciate, the airports are not operational; neither are the sea ports. Reconnaissance flights will have to be made to ascertain the actual situation on the ground and for immediate preparation to be made for the landing of helicopters and other aircrafts. We are looking at what assistance we can give immediately and that may entail medical assistance and sending medical personnel and people with expertise in search and rescue. We are hoping that by this evening an assessment of the situation would have been made and we can get a better appreciation of the kind of assistance that is immediately required,” Mitchell said.

With St Lucia being used as an operational base for the humanitarian effort, the Government has agreed in conjunction with the St Lucia Air and Sea Port Authority to waive fees and facilitate the use of warehouse facilities for receipt and distribution.

Meanwhile, the political leader of the  main opposition St. Lucia Labour Party Philip J. Pierre says the party has initiated a “help Dominica” drive and the party has opened its headquarters in order to receive donations.

Seven people have so far been confirmed dead as a result of Hurricane Maria’s direct hit on Dominica on Monday night., but there are fears that death toll could rise as officials get into communities that have not yet been reached.

Much of the island’s housing stock were either damaged or destroyed by Maria’s 160 mile-per-hour winds, according to Hartley Henry, principal advisor to Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit.

St Lucia is coordinating with the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission on the response efforts.

British Government helping Guyana to distribute hurricane supplies

GEOGETOWN, Guyana, Sep. 21, CMC  – The British Government is working with Guyana in an effort to get supplies to countries in the region that have been devastated by hurricanes.

On Thursday, Minister of State Joe Harmon said the British Government through the local High Commission has indicated that it will make a C-130 military aircraft available to take supplies from Guyana to Antigua and Barbuda.

C-130 HerculesHarmon told reporters that at least 10 containers will be dispatched initially with supplies .

He said the supplies will be taken to Antigua  from where they will be distributed by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).

According to Harmon, the government has also committed to sending medical and other emergency personnel to the islands.

He added that prior to Britain’s help, the private sector was considering hiring a 300 tonne capacity vessel to take the supplies.

GAICO, a privately-owned company, has already paid US$12,000 to transport one container of supplies to Antigua.

The supplies will be distributed to St Maarten, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla and Dominica that were all affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

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Prime Minister of Dominica declares state of emergency, BVI gives all clear

This was Wednesday

ROSEAU, Dominica, Sep. 20, CMC  – A state of emergency has been declared in Dominica following the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria.

In a statement on Wednesday,  Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said the Commonwealth of Dominica is still isolated with no means of communications and and transportation connections to the neghbouring islands.

2017-09-20-PHOTO-00000148Skerrit said the French government is sending a helicopter to the devasted  country to provide assistance and facilitate the evaluation of the situation .

The Prime Minister said with recovery now underway he has declared a state of emergency and a curfew from 4pm to 8pm daily.

In the aftermath of the hurricane, seven persons have been confirmed dead .

“It’s difficult to determine the level of fatalities but so far seven are confirmed, as a direct result of the hurricane. That figure, the Prime Minister fears, will rise as he wades his way into the rural communities today – Wednesday,” said Hartley Henry , the Prime Minister’s principal advisor.

On Tuesday the executive director of the Barbados baed Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA)  Ronald Jackson said that based on historical knowledge of Dominica and the fact that the eye of storm swept across the island from southeast to northwest, there would be “billions of dollars” in damage, with virtually every one of the estimated 70,000 population directly or indirectly impacted.

Meanwhile Governor gives all clear to essential and emergency workers

TORTOLA, British Virgin Islands, Sep. 20, CMC – Governor of the British Virgin Islands, Augustus Jaspert on Wednesday gave an all-clear signal for essential and emergency workers to resume operations following the close passage of Hurricane Maria .

However, he urged everyone else to stay indoors, adding that debris and damage caused by Maria pose some amount of risk to residents.

PROD-DESTRUCTION-IN-BRITISH-VIRGIN-ISLANDS“The Premier and I, in consultation with the Director of The National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) are satisfied that the immediate serious threat posed by Hurricane Maria to the territory is over.”

“Therefore, I am now giving the all-clear to emergency and essential workers only to help conduct the rapid assessment and to ensure that we are able to clear roadways. This means that only critical agencies should be on the roads – all other persons must still stay off the roads. There are still risks from debris and damage from Maria,” he said.

The Governor added that although Maria continues to move away from the BVI, squalls, rain and high surf will continue to affect the territory throughout the day until the hurricane moves away fully.

According to Jaspert, following assessment of the damage caused by Maria, the Government will re-establish plans to continue with the recovery efforts.

“I urge all persons of the BVI, to please adhere to the instructions being given and to ensure full cooperation. The curfew remains in place for all people apart from emergency responders. Please continue to remain indoors and allow us adequate time to complete the assessments and initiate the necessary immediate response. I will advise you later in the day when the public all-clear is given,” he said.

He offered sympathies to Dominica and the US Virgin Islands which were badly affected by Hurricane Maria and noted that he fully supports the call by the Governor of Puerto Rico to ensure individuals are fully prepared for the approaching Hurricane.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Maria  knocked out power to the entire island of Puerto Rico.

Head of the Diaster Management Agency, Abner Gómez said the hurricane had damaged “everything in its path”.

Maria weakened to a category three storm with winds of 115 mph (185km/h) as it moved across the island.

The National Hurricane Centre at 2:00 pm (local time) said Maria had moved offshore the northwestern coast of Puerto Rico and was moving toward the northwest near 12 miles per hour.

It said the center will then pass offshore of the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic on Wednesday night  and Thursday and then move near the Turks and Caicos Islands and southeastern Bahamas Thursday night and Friday.

Little change in strength is forecast during the next 48 hours, and Maria is expected to remain a dangerous major hurricane through Friday.

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Puerto Rico - Hurricane Maria

US ‘stands in solidarity’ with Dominica, Caribbean on ravages of Hurricane Irma

WASHINGTON, Sep. 21, CMC – The United States on Wednesday said that it “stands in solidarity with the people of Dominica and all those across the Caribbean region” affected by Hurricane Maria.

Puerto Rico - Hurricane Maria“The United States stands ready to work with you and our international partners to provide immediate disaster relief,” said US Department of States spokesperson Heather Nauert in a statement.

“We are in the process of coordinating the best possible package of assistance,” she added. “The recent natural disasters underscore our interconnectedness and the importance of strong partnership with the Caribbean.”

Nauert said the Department of State has an ongoing Task Force working to determine the extent of the damages, to coordinate evacuation efforts, and to provide assistance to US citizens in the affected countries.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of the Caribbean region,” she said.

Hurricane Maria,  the most powerful storm to make a direct hit on Puerto Rico in almost a century, ravaged the island on Wednesday, knocking out all electricity, deluging towns with flashfloods and mudslides and compounding the already considerable pain of residents.

DominicaLess than two weeks ago, another powerful storm –  Hurricane Irma  dealt the island “a glancing blow,” killing at least three people and leaving nearly 70 percent of households without power.

Hurricane Maria, which made landfall on Puerto Rico at 6 a.m (local time) on Wednesday, as a Category 4 hurricane, took out the island’s entire power grid, and only added to the woes of a commonwealth that has been groaning under the weight of an extended debt and bankruptcy crisis.

Hurricane Maria also slammed into Dominica late Tuesday.

The storm has devastated infrastructure and led to seven deaths.

NY sends police, fire fighters to help Caribbean with Hurricane Maria recovery


NEW YORK – New York City will be helping the victims of Hurricane Maria across the Caribbean by sending 27 members of the New York Police Department (NYPD) and the Fire Department of New York  (FDNY) to assist in the recovery efforts.

fdny-harvey-rescueAccording to Mayor Bill de Blasio , 27 members of the New York Police Department (NYPD) and the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) left for  Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the region assist in the recovery efforts.

The members of the NYPD and FDNY, including medics and disaster relief professionals make up the city’s Urban Search and Rescue team.

There are 28 Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue teams strategically located throughout the United States, which can also be deployed to the region within six hours of activation.

Meantime,  Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda is expected to focus the world’s attention on climate change and its effects on the Caribbean when he addresses the United Nations General Assembly Thursday evening.

Before departing Antigua on Wednesday, Browne said his primary objective is to speak about the devastation of the sister isle of Barbuda, which was ravaged by Hurricane Irma and to rally the support of the international community for the island.

“I will also be speaking to the issue of Climate Change,” Browne said. “We recognize that in some quarters they are arguing against the issue of climate change.

“We are the ones who are suffering the consequences of climate change here in the Caribbean,” he added. “I want to ensure that I am one of the major advocates on the issue of climate change.”

Browne said his intention is to work with individuals, such as former US Vice President Al Gore and others, to become “more integrally involved” in advancing the arguments in favor of climate change,” according to an Antigua and Barbuda government statement.

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Dr. Ralph Gonsalves

Jamaica and St. Vincent aiding stricken islands and British Virgin Islands

Storm forces barge of hurricane relief supply to return to St. Vincent

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Sept. 19, CMC — Rough seas and other unfavorable marine conditions on the weekend forced the return to Kingstown of an 1,800-tonne barge laden with relief supplies bound for storm-ravaged British Virgin Islands (BVI).
Dr. Ralph Gonsalves
Dr. Ralph Gonsalves

The supplies were donated by the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, businesses and individuals and had been dispatched to the British overseas territory, which is at risk of being hit by another hurricane, even as it struggles to respond to the devastating blow dealt by category 5 Hurricane Irma on Sept. 6.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told a press conference in Kingstown on Monday that the vessel had reached Dominica when the captain decided to sail south to avoid Hurricane Maria.

The government had spent over EC$400,000 to help in the effort, with the barge carrying corporate and individual donations for persons in the BVI, where 10 per cent of the 30,000 residents are Vincentians.

The contribution of the government included some 2,500 gallons of fuel for the vessel.

“We will have to pay more now because we will have to refuel,” Gonsalves said.

He said that the donations from St. Vincent was able to fill 80 per cent of the barge, which set sail from Port Kingstown around midnight Friday, and was scheduled to arrive in Tortola 48 hours later.

Gonsalves, who has ministerial responsibilities for disaster management, said that when he returned to Kingstown from Venezuela around midday Sunday, the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) in Kingstown told him that the barge was on the western side of Dominica.

He asked NEMO to ask the captain if they could go south to St. Lucia because of the predicted path of the storm.

“But I think that even on the western side there’d be problems, so they clearly took a decision to come further south, so they are here. They are out here, they have come back into our waters,” he said of the vessel, which is docked in Port Kingstown.

“This is just a fact of life. We have to wait until Maria passes in order to be able to send the food and water,” Gonsalves said. “It is a sad thing that they are delayed.”

He noted that the region has been dealt a heavy blow by tropical cyclone this Atlantic Hurricane Season, which ends, officially, on November 30.

“The season is still active. We hope and pray that we would be spared but we don’t know what will happen. We just have to be prepared and we have to be active in that preparation,” Gonsalves said.

He told the media that the relevant state agencies are working in a coordinated fashion and he and the director of NEMO, Michelle Forbes, are in contact with each other all the time.

“And I am keeping colleagues informed and I am having reports. I have a file here with reports of one kind or another with this matter. It’s taking up a fair amount of time on a daily basis and on a nightly basis too for us to get things together,” the prime minister said.

Jamaica stands ready to assist island’s impacted by hurricanes

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Sep. 19, CMC  – Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness says his administration will provide whatever assistance it can by countries in the Eastern Caribbean that have been battered by hurricanes.

holnessss“I am in touch with the Prime Ministers from the Eastern Caribbean, Our prayers are with them as they seek to recover from these tragedies. Jamaica stands with them in their time of need,” said Holness on Tuesday.

Late Monday Hurricane Maria, a powerful Category five storm, battered Dominican, uprooting trees and ripping off roofs.

Holness said that while he has had no formal communication the Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, he had seen posts made on social media.

Last week, Hurricane Irma, also a Category five system devastated several islands, including Barbuda, St. Maarten and the British Virgin Islands.

“Jamaica stands ready to assist our Caribbean neighbours. We are calling on the private sector to also assist where possible,” Holness said.

He added that Jamaica has provided airlift for Jamaicans from St Maarten and the British Virgin Islands.

He also urged Jamaicans to continue to be prepared as the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane season remains active.

The hurricane season officially ends on November 30.

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LIAT commences relief flights to St Maarten and BVI


ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Sep. 14, CMC  – Regional airline, LIAT on Thursday started limited flight operations into St. Marteen and Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, both of which were  severely affected by the passage of Hurricane Irma.

LIAT ATRThe Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Maarten and the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport in Tortola suffered extensive damage and have been  closed to commercial operations.

With the relief flights, LIAT is only transporting passengers out of these destinations.

“We will not carry any commercial passengers into these destinations. This is in accordance with the conditions established by the authorities in St. Maarten and the BVI that prohibits the entry of commercial passengers,” the airline noted.

Meanwhile,  LIAT will continue to assist the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) in moving personnel and relief supplies into the affected area.

Passengers in the affected destinations are being urged to contact LIAT’s Reservations Department for more information on the flight schedule.


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The Montserrat Reporter - August 18, 2017