Hurricane in the Caribbean

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12 September 2017:

Glorymar Rivera Báez, Executive Assistant of Conference for the Methodist Church in Puerto Rico writes:

Many thanks to the Methodist Church in Britain for its willingness and solidarity in the wake of hurricane Irma in the Caribbean. The damage that we have experienced in Puerto Rico is small in comparison to the damage that neighbouring islands in Cuba and the lesser Antilles have experienced. Today we received preliminary information from some regions of Puerto Rico, stating that around 150 families have been left homeless. On Monday, authorities in Puerto Rico were able to re-establish the maritime transport service to the two municipal islands of Vieques and Culebra. On Wednesday, Bishop Ortiz will be leading a team on a field visit to the said islands, in order to have a more precise estimate of the families affected and their most pressing needs. This information will be available between Wednesday night and Thursday this week. We require this information in order to know what help is needed.

We have also initiated a plan of action to help those on the islands that have been severely affected (Cuba, Tortola, St Martin and St Thomas). We now have 18 centres where we are collecting basic items of necessity, and they will be transported to these neighbouring islands by boat.

We have received a hurricane update from Bishop Otto Wade, the President of the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas:

 

Greetings in the name of Christ our Lord!

 

My response was delayed as a result of the passage of Irma which resulted in power outage here at Scotts Hill during the past week.

 

Thanks for the expression of concern for our Connexion. As you would have heard or read in the media and as you indicated, several of the islands

were affected by hurricane Irma.

 

Barbuda, Antigua's sister isle was devastated. Anguilla, St. Martin/Sint Maarten, USVI, and  the British Virgin Islands of the Leeward Islands were all greatly affected. As was the Turks and Caicos Islands  of the Bahamas/Turks and Caicos Islands Conference.

 

Many homes have been destroyed or have lost their roofs as have some churches. I have heard that Haiti and the Bahamas were  spared the worst  of the hurricane.

The islands are in recovery mode and it will be a little while before I receive a formal report.

 

Thanks for the solidarity grants which may be sent (in proportion) to the Bishops of the Bahamas/Turks and Caicos Islands and the Leeward Islands.

 

We have worked with UMCOR over the years and look forward to doing so in the weeks to come.

 

Blessings to you and yours,

 

Otto Wade

   
11 September 2017: 

Latest update on Hurricane Irma from our partners in the Caribbean and ACT alliance, via the United Methodist Committee on Relief:

Hurricane Irma has become one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic, reaching category 5 with sustained winds of 295 km/hour.

To date, it has passed over Barbuda, Saint Barthelemy, Anguilla, Saint Marten, British and US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Turks and Caicos, Cuba and the Bahamas. It is currently passing through Florida with Georgia next in line.

Extensive damage is reported throughout the Caribbean.

Loss of life and displacement

Across the affected territories, 27 people are reported dead. In the Dominican Republic and Haiti 34,000 people are displaced, while more than one million people were evacuated along the coastline in central and eastern Cuba. In the eastern Caribbean islands 17,000 people are in need of immediate shelter. More than 10,000 people are in temporary shelters in the north of Haiti. The damage to the Dominican Republic was less than expected, with no fatalities reported. Assessments will take place over the coming days to determine the number of people in need of food assistance.

Damage to infrastructure and farming

In Barbuda and Anguilla 70-90% of all buildings were destroyed. In Haiti, initial reports indicate significant damage to crop fields, livestock and banana plantations. There is also significant damage to farms across Cuba, including swine and poultry. According to the national water authorities, water infrastructure damage affects 1.2 million people. Widespread flooding has been recorded in northern Cuba as well as Havana. Most of the coastal municipalities in affected countries are without electricity.

What's next?  

People are now at threat of landslides and floods, while there is concern over possible waterborne disease outbreaks as flooding is likely to persist for 36 hours at least.

Affected communities' livelihoods are anticipated as the key area of need when recovery efforts begin.

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. We are awaiting a response from MCCA about support to Barbuda and Anguilla.


Rev. Héctor F. Ortiz Vidal; Bishop of the Methodist Church in Puerto Rico writes:

 

May the grace and peace of Christ Jesus be on you and on the Methodist Church in Britain.

 

What joy it gives us to hear of your prayers for us and of your Christian solidarity.

 

Apologies for the delay in responding, we have had internet problems.

 

We are available to participate in all efforts of help for the Caribbean islands affected by hurricane Irma. As well as raising an offering and sending it to UMCOR, we have specialised bilingual personnel (Spanish and English) that can go and help on the affected Caribbean islands.

 

Puerto Rico has flights to these islands.

 

As for our island, we have emerged better than expected from the impact of hurricane Irma. The most affected areas are the municipal islands of Vieques and Culebra, and the electrical infrastructure around the whole island. There are more than a million homes without electrical energy and more than 225,000 homes without water.

 

With the hope that arises from faith,

 

Yours in the Lord,

 

Rev. Héctor F. Ortiz Vidal; Bishop of the Methodist Church in Puerto Rico

 
8 September 2017:

Margarita Aboy Lozada, International Relations of The Methodist Church in Cuba has sent this update:

"Thank you for your prayers for us. The last meteorological report predicts that the cyclone will skirt by our country on Friday and will then travel north towards Florida between Sunday and Monday. It is extremely dangerous, but the centre of the hurricane will not affect us. Only the outskirts of the south of the island will be affected, where there will be much rain and strong winds. We are praying that our country will not suffer serious damage, especially after only a year has passed since hurricane Matthew.

Please thank the brothers and sisters in the United Kingdom for their prayers."


Our mission partners in Haiti, John and Sharon Harbottle, have sent us an update of how Haiti is preparing for Hurricane Irma:

"The Haitian radio has been giving instructions as usual for preparation  for Irma - move to higher ground if you live low or near mudslide area, make sure you have water, batteries, tinned food etc. The USA embassy has banned all travel north of Port-au-Prince for its staff over the next few days.


John has been asked by the church to be ready with emergency medical supplies if needed from the depot. We are doing what we can.  We have been anchoring plant pots and stowing away loose stuff where possible.


We are expecting it to be much worse in the north by Cap Haitian - our minister is poised. However we are within the track in Port au Prince so we will see if the storm keeps a straight course or not. Expecting winds and rain but personally should be ok where we live. Thank you for your concern.  We should be safe here in Petionville, above Port-au-Prince, at about 900+ft above sea-level.  The winds we are expecting here as things stand are not likely to reach Tropical Storm levels, but may be close to it, and lots of rain.  The folk in the north of Haiti will get significant damage from winds and flooding so we are very busy preparing supplies and water treatment tablets etc. so that we can provide relief support as soon as we hear what and where the needs are greatest."

 

John is a Dr and is responsible for supporting the Methodist Church in Haiti's community heath boards. Sharon is working in the church's Christian Education Department, developing teaching resources for children, youth, adults, lay preachers and church stewards.

 

7 September 2017:

A report from Puerto Rico on Hurricane Irma

We thank the Methodist Church in Britain for their prayers, concern and love for Puerto Rico and the Evangelical Methodist Church in Puerto Rico.

The situation of Hurricane Irma is very serious for our country, especially for the island of Culebra, which is set to bear the brunt of the first impact. Our church, the community and our government are preparing ourselves for very challenging times ahead. The priority is to save lives, although unfortunately we have already sustained some loss of life during the preparations being undertaken to withstand this phenomenon. Forecasters predict that the wind and the rain will cause great damage and disaster in the country, particularly for those people who live in the most vulnerable areas. It is said that what we are awaiting is very dangerous and catastrophic. We are in deep prayer, asking for God to move in mercy.

As a church, we take seriously the responsibility of looking after the spiritual, emotional, and material needs of our people, which is why we are deeply grateful to the beloved Methodist Church in Britain for its concern.

Reverend Rafael Moreno
(Recent former presiding Bishop)
 

   
5 September 2017:


Hurricane Irma

The category 5 tropical storm Hurricane Irma has hit St Martin, St Barts, Antigua and Barbuda and Anguilla and caused very serious destruction. A number of fatalities have been reported from these islands (there is no reported loss of life in Antigua). Since last night Puerto Rico has been affected by the approaching storm with severe rainfall and high winds, leading to power cuts across the island.

The path of this hurricane (the strongest ever recorded in this region) could potentially affect five million people in the Caribbean. The Bahamas, the Turks & Caicos Islands, Bermuda, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba and, Florida are also on the alert. People have been preparing to bunker down during the storm; some have evacuated their homes, seeking shelter elsewhere.  It is expected that should the storm cause the levels of devastation predicted, parts of the Caribbean may be uninhabitable for weeks and possibly months, with power outages and homes destroyed.

Our partners in the region have been contacted and we have assured them of the love and prayers of the Methodist Church in Britain. We invite you to use this prayer to join with many across the world who will be praying for the Caribbean at this time.

 

"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."                 Philippians 4:7  (NRSV)

 

Our gracious Father,

We lift up before your throne of grace the Caribbean and its people. We pray that in your mercy the strength of Hurricane Irma would lessen and that the damage it is predicted to cause would be far less than expected.

We pray that you would strengthen the people of the Caribbean and give them peace amidst the storm.

We pray for emergency relief and response services and organisations in the region, that you will give them the wisdom to know how to prepare and deploy their resources to support the millions of people that are expected to be affected.

We pray that the people of the Caribbean would feel the love and comfort of the Holy Spirit right now as they brace themselves and worry about the safety of their loved ones.

In Jesus' name we pray.



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