Minister of Citizenship Winston Felix yesterday announced that priority will be given to children in evacuation efforts organized by the Guyana Government to assist Guyanese who remain on hurricane-affected islands, as there remains the risk of an epidemic in some cases.
“…All priority will go towards children. And I say this to you—what we saw, at least in Tortola (BVI), suggests—because they gave us masks—there is an accumulation of refuse and you could see signs of an epidemic breaking out and, as such, children being vulnerable. They need to be removed early, so whatever the decision is to be taken we’ll have to work with a system of priority to ensure that children are taken care of before the situation deteriorates,” Felix stated.
The minister, during a post-Cabinet press briefing, stated that while adults did not express interest in returning to Guyana, they made known that they wanted their children to return. This was reported on in the Monday edition of this newspaper.
Felix, acknowledging that there will be some difficulty in the process, said it would have to be managed carefully and that children returning to Guyana may need to be accompanied by an adult.
The minister explained that they are still unsure when the first evacuation will take place because of logistics. He related that there were instances of duplication on the list of nationals provided and so the list would need to be streamlined before moving forward.
Over the weekend, Felix, along with representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the immigration department, visited Antigua, St Maarten and the British Virgin Islands (BVI).
Felix related that according to information he is in receipt of, there are approximately 7,000 Guyanese in St Maarten, and 7,000 in Antigua alone. He cited the number for BVI as around 1,500.
The team’s first visit was to Antigua, where it was informed that all residents of Barbuda had had to be evacuated and taken there because of the extent of the damage.
“The team then visited St Maarten by chartered aircraft…and there we met total devastation of the island—every house in sight was without roof, electricity, water, telephone services was disrupted and there was severe damage to property,” Felix stated.
He noted that the turnout of Guyanese residents to that meeting was poor, but noted that preparations were hindered because everyone, including the consulates, was so affected.
The visit to Tortola, however, saw a turnout of approximately 80 to 100 persons according to the minister. Their requests, reportedly, were for vector control materials, food, medicine and skilled labour in order to aid in the rebuilding process.
Felix said that although Virgin Gorda, an island in the BVI, also has a significant number of Guyanese, they were unable to visit because of time restraints. He noted, though, that the Premier had related to him that about 80% to 90% of the houses there were damaged.
In terms of relief efforts, Minister of State Joseph Harmon, said that the British High Commission would be assisting by facilitating an aircraft to deliver 10 containers of supplies, inclusive of building material, foodstuff and medical supplies, to Antigua, where they will be distributed by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) to other locations.
The government has already donated US $100,000 to the cause through CDEMA, and earlier this week donated 2,900 pounds of relief supplies to the organization to be distributed.
In addition to the bank accounts that have been set up for those affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Harmon said that other accounts will be established at all commercial banks locally.
Also, on Saturday from 8pm to 10pm, there will be a telethon at NCN to raise funds for the hurricane victims.
The government has also agreed to transport the body of Derek Ragnauth, along with two family members, back to Guyana from the BVI for his burial. Ragnauth was one of five fatalities on the island after Hurricane Irma hit.
As it relates to the damage felt locally as a result of recent tropical storms, Harmon related to the media yesterday the local efforts are being made by the government in Bath Settlement and communities within Linden, where homes and institutions were damaged within the past few weeks.
The minister stated that damage assessment and needs analysis were conducted at a number of areas in Linden, including the Wismar Christianburg Secondary School, the Wismar hospitals, the Regional Agriculture Office, West Watooka and Amelia’s Ward. He related that the assessment found that the damage to the Secondary School was minor, although the institution had been closed down because of the storm’s impact.
He noted that persons have already proceeded with repairs to their houses in those affected areas.
While he said that the CDC, together with the Region 5 Regional Democratic Council and the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils, conducted similar assessments and analyses of the houses of Sheila Harricharand of Bath Settlement and Dharamdat Sookhoo, a high level team, headed by the Prime Minister, will visit Bath Settlement today.