I’m just back from holiday and I should be rested and relaxed but the truth is that I can’t relax when my brothers and sisters are suffering. While I was away, I received pictures and videos of Irma’s handiwork and now those of the devastation wreaked on our sister, Dominica, by Maria.
These scenes are horrific and terrifying. Although we are seeing them, I don’t think we can fully appreciate the reality of what our neighbours faced through the hurricanes and in the aftermath. I mean, my electricity went off for a couple of hours this week and I didn’t know what to do with myself without my fan, my WiFi and my stove. Imagine it being off for two weeks or more!
This tragedy has given me a totally new perspective on hurricane preparedness. When I heard of the looting in some of the islands and the fact that people cannot get food or clean water, that tells me that in case of a hurricane, six cans of tuna and a few packs of eclipse biscuits are far from enough. Similarly, a few containers of water caught hurriedly as the system approaches would not be enough to sustain a family for several weeks without water. So we need to take hurricane preparedness seriously.
I was saddened to hear of looting and violence in some of the countries that were hit by Irma and to think that people were desperate for food but there was none to buy. I don’t harbour any false ideas that Barbados would be like Japan after the earthquake where no one looted. So, my advice would be to forget the notion that God is a Bajan and consider that it could have been us.
You therefore need to make sure you have supplies to last three to four weeks if you can, that you include items like wipes and hand sanitizer, knowing that bathing and washing hands might be a luxury. For those of us who have dogs, you need to buy chow to last a few weeks. I am very glad that the price of the dog chow I wrote about a couple of months ago has come back down to a reasonable amount.
My husband and I were chatting with a man who was in the BVI during Irma. He was staying in a well-built house and he told us that the windows were literally sucked out from their frames. The roof soon went and the wind came in like a tornado, destroying everything in the house and forcing them to take shelter in a cupboard covered with two mattresses.
He said that when the first window was sucked out, he tried to hold a couch in front of it and could feel the force of the wind trying to pull the couch through the space. The pressure also caused your ears to pop like when you’re in an airplane. His wife, who lives in Barbados, told me that she and a lot of her friends are now looking at their homes to see where is the safest place in a hurricane.
I can totally relate, because since these Category 5 hurricanes, I have started looking around to see where in the house we should hide out if, God forbid, we were hit by such a hurricane. To tell the truth, it’s hard to make sense of all that has happened, but I have seen some good in the midst of the tragedies.
In the last two weeks, I have seen people of the region praying for other countries as if they were their own; I have seen people go to the supermarket specifically to buy food and supplies to send to hurricane stripped countries; I have seen unity in the region and a desire to help our brothers and sisters like I have never seen before.
I have seen a video of a man whose roof was gone and whose house was flooding giving thanks to God in the midst of his situation. His house had been damaged but their lives were spared.
My advice would be to make sure you have supplies to last three to four weeks, that you have identified a safe place in your house and that, in addition to food, you buy things like wipes and hand sanitizer. Based on the things that are being asked for in Dominca, tarpaulins should be added to the supply list.
A Category 5 hurricane puts things in perspective. It brings everyone to the same level, as evidenced by the Prime Minister of Dominica who lost his roof and had to be rescued and taken to a safer location. Rich and poor have lost houses, clothes and possessions and have to start over again.
As a friend of mine said: “I never thought I would say ‘Praise the Lord’ to a Category 2 Hurricane. Perspective is a hell of a thing.”
I can totally relate to that.