Grenada hit hard by Hurricane Emily

Still reeling from the disaster of last September’s Hurricane Ivan, Grenada was battered early Thursday by Hurricane Emily, killing at least one man, injuring many and destroying several buildings.

Amid a shortage of construction supplies from last year’s disaster and with many homes and buildings still without roofs, including some schools where children are still being taught under tarps, Emily has caused further damage and flooding in Grenada’s two largest cities. Once again, many homes lost their roofs.

While last year storm wreaked havoc on the south of the island, Emily struck hard on the northern sphere of the island, especially the parishes of St. Patrick’s, St. Andrew’s, and the outlying islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique, Grenadian authorities said.

According to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, the hurricane packed sustained winds of 90 mph (150 kmh) and headed west at about 18 mph (30 kph). In St. George’s, the nation’s capital, the roof of the operating room in the newly constructed main hospital (built with the Cuban help) was knocked off. And on Carriacou, the storm destroyed the entire roof of the only hospital, forcing the evacuation of patients, Grenadian officials said. Two police stations and two homes for the elderly also lost their roofs, homes were damaged, streets were flooded and crops were destroyed. Grenadian authorities asked the public to remain at home or in shelters, where more than 1,600 people took refuge.

“Serious damage has been inflicted on many parts of the island,” said Rawle Titus, a spokesman for Grenada National Disaster Management Agency.

As the storm approached, Grenadians rushed home under intense rain and lightening, forming traffic jams in the capital of St. George’s. In much of the Eastern Caribbean, people had flocked to the stores Tuesday, snapping up canned food, water and batteries. The rush contrasted with the attitude before Ivan, when Grenadians took few precautions.

“We took this very, very seriously,” said Colin Dowe, an assistant dean at the island’s St. George’s University, to a reporter from The Associated Press. “Ivan was much stronger so the general feeling is that we can get through this.” Last year’s Ivan killed 39 people and left a wasteland of much of Grenada’s infrastructure.

Emily comes on the heels of Hurricane Dennis last week, which killed 25 people in Haiti and 16 in Cuba. In addition to storm-related injuries, both countries also sustained damage to their buildings and crops. Cuba estimates its losses at over $1.4 billion.

There is great apprehension as both hurricanes have arrived very early in the hurricane season. As the strength and frequency of hurricanes in the region intensify, there is growing cooperation in disaster management. For example, according to the Havana-based AIN News Agency, in the wake of Dennis, Venezuela dispatched a brigade of experts on damage assessment to Jamaica and Cuba and to help the two countries cope with the consequences.

Col. Antonio Rivero, Cuba’s director for civilian protection and disaster management, told Granma on Tuesday the initiative is included in Venezuela’s commitments with Caribbean countries. Rivero explained that Venezuela has already sent a 6-ton shipment of potable water, blankets, mattresses and kerosene lamps, among other needed provisions to Jamaica.

Of the countries in Emily’s path, Grenada has been hardest hit thus far, just as it was the hardest hit by Ivan last year. The government has declared a Level Two disaster response. However at 11 a.m. EDT, Emily was about 560 miles southeast of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic and is predicted to strengthen over the next 24 hours.