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Hurricane Irma Caribbean aid efforts get underway

DEVASTATION: Hurricane Irma caused billions of dollars worth of damage in the Caribbean

AS THE first bottles of water started to arrive on damaged Caribbean islands, leaders started to also focus on longer-term issues arising from Hurricane Irma, including climate change, debt structure and long-term resilience.

The Caribbean’s Regional Response Mechanism (RRM) had been quickly activated, accompanied by aid and support from the UK, US, Canadian, French and Dutch governments.

However as Caribbean leaders met to discuss the situation in the UK there was loud criticism of Britain’s response to Irma.

A former UK EU representative for the government of Anguilla, Dorothea Hodge, told The Guardian that “It’s absolutely disgraceful that it has taken the whole day for Priti Patel [Development Secretary] to respond to the worst hurricane we have seen in a British territory since the 1920s”.

FUNDS

Hodge said: “In comparison to the French president who has set up an emergency fund, an emergency hotline and a reconstruction fund her response after the storm has passed is absolutely pathetic.”

The chairmen of the all-party Foreign Affairs and Development Select Committees, Tom Tugendhat and Stephen Twigg, supported Hodge’s comments said that experts and many in the area had been critical of the overall level of relief.

The government recently announced a £32m aid package to be delivered to Britain’s overseas Caribbean territories.

DEFENDED

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson strongly defended Britain’s aid to the Caribbean.

He said last week: "There's an unprecedented effort going on by the UK to meet what has been an unprecedented catastrophe in that part of the Caribbean.”

DEFENCE: Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson refuted criticisms of the UK government’s response

He outlined what the aid programme involved at the weekend following a meeting of the emergency response unit COBRA.

Johnson told BBC’s Today programme: “I sympathise with the distress of all the families in the Caribbean, but I must point out we have had half a million British nationals in the path of this hurricane.....this is a very big consular crisis and I am confident we are doing everything we can to help British nationals, but there are half a million affected.”

CHALLENGE

Politicians and experts in the Caribbean have hinted at the scale of the challenge ahead for the region.
British Virgin Islands (BVI) Premier Orlando Smith said in a statement: “Rebuilding an entire territory is no small undertaking.”

According to the first estimates from Antigua’s National Office of Disaster Services (NODS), repairing the damage to Barbuda’s homes and buildings could cost up to US$200m.

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