The Caribbean Tragedy

They’re Here At Last

 

Those of us who aren’t climate change deniers have been wondering when our number would come up for a major damaging hurricane. Well, it wasn’t one, it was three. The damage has been terrible and there is now years of hard work ahead. What has happened in the United States is tragic, but it is even worse in the Caribbean.

Breathtaking Reports

Looking at the damage in the Virgin Islands and neighboring islands is frightful but, for me, there is another dimension. It grows out of my experience in the Caribbean.

In 1990 we opened a home in St. Lucia, one of the windward islands. It stood on the top of a hill with a 250 elevation above the sea. Of course we got insurance but declined “overage from the sea” coverage. A storm surge to 250 feet was unlikely. Wind damage was another matter.

We looked deep into the history of hurricanes on the island. It turns out that St. Lucia was just below the hurricane belt. They had had a hurricane 100 years ago and only an occasional tropical disturbance since with no major damage.

Then Came a Hurricane

One time we were in the house and got word that a major hurricane was hurtling toward us and was coming past the island of Barbados. It seemed likely it would go between the southern part of St. Lucia and St. Vincent. That would have put us on the more damaging side of the hurricane. We prepared for the worst and hunkered down in a windowless concrete outbuilding and waited. The winds grew much more intense and then died off.

Later we learned the specifics. Some island friends of ours (travel agents) had been given a cruise and they were just off Barbados as the storm came in. The ship fled West and turned due north past Martinique. So did the hurricane and followed them up on the other side of Martinique. It’s not easy to go between all islands so the ship traveled north dogged by the hurricane. At last they could turn west near the Virgin islands and the storm plowed into those islands.

Then There Was Reality

Our friends were horrified by the complaints of the passengers who wanted to get off and go shopping. The news from St. Thomas was that there was no news. All communications and all power were gone. Later they learned that the island had been crushed by the storm.

And here is the meaning of this post. We think of the Caribbean as a paradise for vacations. There are villas for wealthy people and a glorious life style. But, when these kinds of storms hit, the true devastation is for the ordinary people of these islands. Foreign homeowners can take a pass on visiting that year or even next but the local people, who are anything but wealthy, have to rebuild their lives.

We Must Not Forget Them

In this time of tragedy we are looking at Florida and Texas with occasional mention of the devastated Caribbean Islands. It is not easy for these people to get supplies. There are no roads to the islands. And they had little if any wealth to help them recover. Some are lucky and have the United States or Britain to send aid. Others have no such resources.

In the months ahead we need to pay attention regarding word of their needs. We need to take advantage of possibilities to contribute as they try to rebuild their lives. The tourists are gone for the foreseeable future but the local people will struggle on and will need our help. We also have to be aware that governments will handle the near term needs but the recovery will go on long after. It is then that the contributions from the public at large will be essential.

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