Help for those hit by hurricanes

CHURCHGOERS in the Thames Valley are being asked to assist the Diocese of North East Caribbean and Aruba, whose churches and communities have been devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Hurricane Irma is heading towards the Caribbean Sea – Elements of this image furnished by NASA. Photo: Shutterstock

Canon Chris Sugden, Commissary for the Diocese of North East Caribbean and Aruba, who lives in Oxfordshire, has shared news from Bishop Errol Brooks, bishop of the diocese. In Anguilla, Bishop Errol Brooks noted that the three Anglican churches, St Andrew’s Island Harbour, St Mary’s in the Valley and St Augustine’s had all been damaged. “I do not know where to start,” said the assessor.

Damage was worse on the islands of Barbuda and Dominica. The former, which was hit by both hurricanes, had to be completely evacuated. On Dominica an estimated 90 per cent of the island’s buildings were damaged or destroyed; crops were completely wiped out; and many people were dead or missing. St George’s Church, in the heart of the capital, lost its roof and many windows, and buildings associated with it were damaged.

Bishop Errol was appreciative of the relief efforts by the UK Government to help Anguilla, which is a British Overseas Territory. “They did what they could”, he said, “I saw helicopters coming off the Royal Navy guard ship to repair the fuel lines ruptured by the storm. I live near the airport and have watched RAF transport flights coming in one after the other.”

Those islands that had been unaffected had sent relief supplies across to their neighbours. But the real impact of the hurricane will be felt in the next few weeks. The end of the hurricane season is the start of the tourist season in November. While the sector is recovering quickly in some areas, in others the tourism industry won’t be fully operational for at least another year. Islands like Dominica have also lost the bulk of their non-tourism livelihoods.

Relief supplies, including food, will be needed for some time. The Anglican Alliance hosted a conference call for Anglican partners, during which Bishop Errol shared similar reports of the devastation. “We also heard about the response both from the diocese and the province to those affected by the hurricanes,” said Dr Janice Proud, Anglican Alliance Relief Manager. “We heard how Antigua had sent emergency supplies to Barbuda when they were devastated by Hurricane Irma, then had no reserves when Hurricane Maria hit them.”

Bishop Errol said: “ Every year we brace ourselves for these storms. Anyone who thinks that global warming is not a reality, needs to think again. I have never known two massive storms come through the area in swift succession with winds of 185 miles an hour and gusts of 250 miles an hour. This is unprecedented.”

Fr Clive Thomas from Barbados shared the desire of the Anglican Alliance Caribbean Forum to build comprehensive disaster management – both mitigation and response for the Anglican Church in the Caribbean. This would build the resilience of the community to cope with the impact of the changing climate.

Donate to the relief effort through USPG or the St Alban’s Diocese.