…secures British Military Cargo plane to shuttle relief supplies
The Guyana Government’s delegation has returned from Antigua, St Marteen and the British Virgin Islands (BVI) where it had sent a Needs Assessment Team, following the damages left in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
Minister of Citizenship Winston Felix who spearheaded that team, on Thursday, met with members of the local media corps where he briefed operatives on some of the support initiatives government is currently considering and to provide a first-hand account of the extent of the devastation
According to Minister Felix, in addition to food, building and medical supplies, some of the affected Guyanese have been inquiring about the possible evacuation from the devastated islands to Guyana, specifically school aged children.
He explained that many of the Guyanese present have expressed a willingness to remain on the on the Caribbean islands in order to cash in on the rebuilding efforts.
According to Felix, the information supplied to him and his team indicates that in St Marteen there are some 7,000 Guyanese domiciled there while in Tortola, BVI, the population stands at around 1,500.
Felix was quick to point out that whatever relief efforts will be made by Government it will be incumbent on the governments of those countries to spearhead the local relief efforts and that the supplies with not be sent directly to Guyanese groupings.
Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, who was on hand for the Press engagement had earlier indicated that Guyana currently has 10 containers of supplies ready for delivery to Antigua—the designated hub for all of the relief efforts pouring into the region.
According to Minister Harmon, government has secured the assistance of the British Government—through the local High Commissioner—for use of a C-130 military cargo aircraft in order to transport the supplies from Guyana to Antigua.
Felix also used the opportunity to touch on the shortcomings encountered by the team which he said was due in part to the extent of the damage to the communities that led to the diaspora members being unprepared for the visit.
This was compounded by curfews that had been set in place both in St Marteen and Tortola, BVI. Felix told media operatives the team was unable to travel to the neighboring Virgin Gorda, Jost van Dyke or Anegada, the other two of the larger populated islands in the BVI where Guyanese currently reside.
Providing an extensive briefing, Minister Felix reported that Needs Assessment team was flown to St Marteen by Chartered Aircraft where there was a complete devastation of the island much like Barbuda—Barbuda has since had to evacuate all of the residents to the neigbouring sister island Antigua.
According to Minister Felix, “there we met total devastation of the island, any house in sight was without roof, electricity, water, telephone services have been disrupted and there’s was severe damage to property.”
The team did manage to meet with a pocket of Guyanese living in St Marteen and they “all expressed the need for assistance in terms of building materials, water, bedding and items to make them comfortable.”
He did report however, that while they would have been able to meet with a few representatives in St Marteen, “they were so badly affected that the level of preparation we expected there we did not have it so we did not meet large numbers of Guyanese, remember those persons were also affected by the Hurricane.”
According to Felix, the team while in Tortola managed to meet with only a few scores of Guyanese estimated between 80 and 100.
He told media operatives, the team did manage to traverse the British Overseas Territory where they were able to have a first-hand assessment of the extent of the damage in addition to meeting with BVI’s Premier, Dr Orlando Smith.
According to Felix, while the requests from the Guyanese living in Tortola were similar to those in St Marten in relation to food and medical supplies, “they needed some addition.”
He spoke to the need for vector control materials such as treated mosquito nets as a result of the mosquitos.
Minister Felix was quick to also point out that during his meetings with Guyanese living in Tortola, “many of them did not want, they did not express a need to return to Guyana, those we met did not express a need to return to Guyana but they wanted their children to return.”
He told media operatives that this request poses a situation that will have to be carefully managed given the immigration and other demands that could make the process a tedious one.
“Unaccompanied children on travel, is never advisable particularly where the aircraft might not be one, a private charter, so that is a situation we have to manage carefully.”
The Minister did point out that the Guyanese delegation has made some recommendations namely, Antigua be made the staging point or hub for the relief efforts and that children returning to Guyana should be accompanied by an adult.
It was reported that the Guyana Government has agreed to also repatriate to Guyana, Dereck Ragnauth’s corpse, the 55 year-old Guyanese that perished in the BVI when his house collapsed killing him during Hurricane Irma.