As Dominica becomes the latest hurricane-hit territory in the Caribbean region, President David Granger has said that Guyana stands in solidarity with the island state even as Guyana remains committed to extending support for the Caribbean States including Dominica, which have been affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Reports indicate that there has been severe destruction with no deaths confirmed thus far.
Meanwhile, in an invited comment, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, who is responsible for the disaster relief agency, the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), informed that Guyana stands ready to lend technical and other forms of support as may be required.
According to a report from the BBC, Maria, has powered back to category five strength after pounding the Caribbean island of Dominica.
It weakened to a four after wreaking “widespread damage” on the island but is now packing maximum sustained winds of 265km/h (165mph) again.
The storm is moving roughly along the same track as Irma, this season’s other category five hurricane.
At least one person was killed and two others are missing in Guadeloupe.
Meanwhile, President Granger said that a broader platform is needed to effectively provide protection and relief to Caribbean States that are vulnerable to natural disasters. He noted that urgent efforts must be made to strengthen the capabilities of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), the regional mechanism that deals with disaster preparedness and response. “The Caribbean has to go to the drawing board again. We have got to create a more effective platform maybe in terms of architecture, in terms of response, in terms of measures to provide relief to our citizens…Guyana has a wide diaspora but have to look at the logistical capabilities of the Caribbean Community,” he said.
The Head of State made these points during a meeting with Commonwealth Secretary General, The RT. Patricia Scotland at the United Nations Headquarters today.
Speaking to the Guyanese media corps after that meeting, the Head of State said that, “It is quite clear that climate change is not something we could ignore… I have more or less put it to the Secretary General of the Commonwealth that next year when we meet in London at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting we have to put climate change and the issue of protection of and relief to Caribbean Commonwealth States on the agenda. We already have a mechanism, the CDEMA and we have to broaden CDEMA because what is happening now is that several countries are being adversely affected at the same time,” President Granger explained.
He said that with several Anglophone Caribbean states being devastated simultaneously by hurricanes, a more comprehensive plan is needed to address the issue of evacuation; noting that people cannot be moved from one affected country to the next. Moreover, he emphasised that efforts at mitigation must be intensified. “We got to think about how we are going to prevent climate change at the global scale from affecting the Small Island Developing States [SIDS] and also the low-lying coastal states because countries like Belize, Suriname and Guyana can also be affected by global warming and rising sea levels. Even though we do not get hurricanes, we are going to see rising sea levels which will jeopardise our sea defences,” President Granger said.
Granger said that the country can play a key role in terms of using its vast land space to offer citizens of affected Caribbean territories a chance of a better life in the wake of recent climatic disasters. Additionally, with Guyana transitioning to a ‘green state’ and its commitment to preserving its forests, it is providing an important service to the world.
“We are leaders in environmental security and we have to emphasise that all states of the world must try to preserve their biodiversity, protect their forests and mitigate or prevent the situation in which greenhouse gases tend to contribute to global warming. So we have got to look at green technology and environmental measures…So that gradually, global warming could be brought under control and eventually the tendency for the earth to get warm will be slowed. Guyana is very important to the environmental future and this is the main issue I raised with the Commonwealth Secretary General,” the President disclosed.