Harrowing stories of the death and devastation caused by Hurricane Irma are emerging from islands across the Caribbean and US. More than 30 people are known to have died in the Caribbean. Thousands have seen their homes destroyed; thousands more have been left without power. In the US at least 10 people have been killed – six in Florida. A clean-up operation is underway but around 60% of homes in the state are still without power.
Clifton Nedd, the Anglican Alliance regional facilitator said, “In the north eastern Caribbean the reports are of absolute destruction. The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda has indicated that some 90% of the housing stock has been destroyed or damaged.”
Irma -- the most powerful storm in the region for a decade – ravaged a swathe of islands including Anguilla, Barbuda, the Turks and Caicos and the British and US Virgin Islands before smashing into Puerto Rico, Cuba and turning on the US state of Florida. These islands were in the eye of the storm but a number of others were also badly affected.
The widespread damage has hampered communications but Father Reid Simon in Antigua sent the following message: “Greetings from Antigua where this island was spared any damage. Barbuda, our sister island has been declared a disaster area. We are very thankful for the prayerful support and we shall let you know what has transpired in those other areas. We continue to press on with God even in the midst of the challenge of devastation and material loss.”
The Anglican Alliance has been making contact with affected dioceses to find out more and is ready to help those responding to the crisis. The Church community across the region has requested prayers from around the Communion.
In a statement Archdeacon Franklyn Reid said: “The Anglican Church in the Diocese of the North Eastern Caribbean and Aruba stands in solidarity with the ongoing mitigating and relief efforts being extended to the people of Barbuda, Anguilla, St. Maarten/St. Martin, St. Barts, and Saba in this instance and others in the wider Caribbean.
“We are encouraging all our members and Christian minded persons to respond in loving service in any way possible to help our brothers and sisters in need. Whatever you can do, do it in the name of Christ. We will be making the necessary monetary and material donations over the course of time to aid in whatever way possible in the ongoing relief and restoration efforts. May God's grace continue to be with us all.”
Jean Claude Cerin, the country director for Tearfund in Haiti, welcomed the Anglican community’s prayers and concern: “Thanks again for your solidarity and looking forward to cooperation as we respond to the needs of the people.” Episcopal Relief & Development are also in contact with their church partners in the Caribbean and Florida, are ready to respond to emergency needs in the affected areas.