Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General Irwin LaRocque today offered condolences to the victims of Hurricane Matthew, saying the passage of the storm once again underlines the region’s vulnerability to climate change.
Matthew claimed more than 800 lives in Haiti earlier this week, and also battered the Bahamas before moving to the United States.
“It is with deep sadness that I extend my sympathy and condolences to the families of those who lost their lives during the passage of Hurricane Matthew. I also empathise with the thousands who have lost their homes and property on account of the storm,” LaRocque said in a statement.
The then Tropical Storm Matthew affected Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia and Dominica, before being upgraded to a hurricane which left a trail of destruction in Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
To date Haiti has been the most seriously affected Caribbean country; in addition to the rising death toll, thousands have been displaced and there is widespread flooding and devastation in parts of the country, raising concern about a resurgence of cholera.
“Moreover, the full scale of fatalities and destruction has not yet been assessed as the isolation of the most affected areas has been exacerbated by the damage of key road and the communications infrastructure,” LaRocque stated, adding that CARICOM is also concerned about reports of extensive damage in The Bahamas.
CARICOM’s response is being led by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), which has been working with national relief organisations to assess damage, determine priority needs and provide relief.
“The passage of Matthew underlines once again the vulnerability of Caribbean Small Island Developing and Low Lying Coastal States (SIDS) to the vagaries of climate action and the reversals they bring to sustainable development efforts.
“The early response to the aftermath of Matthew as well as the supportive facility put in place to help resource the required recovery and rebuilding effort also underline the critical importance of the regional institutional frameworks established by the Community, CDEMA and the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) which has already processed payment to two of the affected countries, Barbados and Haiti,” he said.
LaRocque has also been in discussion with the leaders of the affected countries, as well as the executive director of CDEMA, Ronald Jackson.