Caribbean: Ike Strikes

The 2008 Atlantic Hurricane Season is not letting up. Beleaguered Caribbean islands like Cuba and Haiti barely had time to recover from the ravages of Hurricanes Gustav and Hanna when Mother Nature struck once again, this time in the form of Ike.

Tensions were high with bloggers Caribbean-wide. Free Spirit, from Grenada, couldn't help but remember the trying times the island faced after Hurricane Ivan just four short years ago:

The heat has been building these past few days and this tropical wave will bring a welcome relief to all of us here in Grenada. However, it is not easy to enjoy our respite. All of us here that experienced Hurricane Ivan, know full well how the people of the Turks and Cacaos must be feeling and can only imagine the horror of what is happening in Haiti. We fear for our friends in Cuba who brought light to this village after five months without any. It is impossible to truly explain how it feels to survive a major hurricane.

I watch The Weather Channel with despair. I know this is an American programme but the reporting on their Tropical Update section is so unsympathetic to the peoples of the Caribbean that it enrages me.

Fellow Grenadian Blah Bloh Blog added:

Today marks the 4th anniversary of Hurricane Ivan’s assault on Grenada in 2004…and now, on this day in 2008, we have Hurricane Ike (Cat 4) wrecking havoc on the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Haiti and Cuba. Thoughts, prayers and wishes for safety go out to all affected.

Trinidad and Tobago, located at the base of the Caribbean archipelago, outside of the hurricane zone, also had bloggers weighing in. Coffeewallah thought the combination of Gustav, Hanna and Ike sounded “like a sixties doo wop band; unfortunately they are not”:

Every year we talk about the worst hurricanes, how they get more and more powerful, the havoc they wreak greater than the last. Have we wondered why the hurricanes are getting worse, because this does not seem like an accident of nature…it would appear that the world’s weather patterns are changing, as a result of man’s incursions on the environment.

Poorer nations will always pay the price for the ambitions of the more powerful. And so, while Florida battens down, Haiti is still suffering. The Turks and Caicos are reeling, most of the houses on Grand Turk damaged. Cuba, still being pounded as I write this. We in Trinidad are lucky, we’ve not been hit by a major hurricane, but we too feel the effects.

“Hurricane Ike approaching Northern Haiti” – Photo by Nick Hobgood; used with permission. Visit Nick's photostream.

Haitian blog Pwoje Espwa was relieved that Ike was not as devastating as he could potentially have been to the island, but noted that Haitians were still reeling from the effects of Gustav and Hanna:

Hurricane Ike passed Haiti to the north so we were spared his fury. We have rain but little wind. Join us in praying for our sisters and brothers in Gonaives who have suffered much lately. We have heard that the city was under 4 meters (over 12 feet) of water and mud. Hundreds have perished; all crops and animals were lost; hundreds of homes were completely destroyed and thousands left homeless with nothing but what they were wearing or managed to carry. God help them!

But RHFH Rescue Center had a very different story to share:

Ike hit us hard here in Cazale. We had to run with the children to the second story of the houses. There is much destruction. I have not slept yet. Everything everywhere is a mess. They are removing bodies from the river that has been washed down from other villages. It is very serious. Lori and Charles house has a least 1 foot of mud in it. Most of their belongings are destroyed. The water level in their house was waist high. The main bridge in Cazale washed away.

The Rescue Center also posted photos of the damage. Haiti Reborn reported that “Gonaives was partly evacuated ahead of Ike”:

It's unclear what resources were mobilized to help this evacuation, but early reports are that few people were killed in Gonaives because of Ike. It's clear that Gonaive did suffer extensive additional material damage, including the loss of the last road bridge into town under new flooding, something certain to set recovery efforts back further. Substantial re-flooding took place, but we hear that the water has crested and is on the way down.

The town of Cabaret, 35 kms north of Port-au-Prince appears to have suffered the worst loss of life in Ike. A storm surge or mudslide in the middle of the night swamped the town, carrying away or drowning nearly 50 residents.

Blogger Wadner Pierre, who hails from Gonaives, seemed jaded at the prospect of the town's recovery:

Aid money will arrive. The question is who will benefit from it. The people of Gonaives are understandably pessimistic after their experience with Hurricane Jeanne.

“Calm Before The Storm” – Photo by Peter F. Thompson, used with permission. Visit his flickr photostream.

Meanwhile, Cuba was within Ike's sights. Cuba-Blog was saddened at the politics that seemed to be in play even as people on the ground suffered:

As I, along with thousands of other people, track Hurricane Ike, my concern is heightened. I am saddened by the difficulty of getting aid into Haiti in spite of the fact that a relief ship from the U.N. has been sitting in harbor for days. They just can’t get the supplies inland. Now Ike has hit Haiti again, and has hit Turks and Caicos, damaging about 80% of the property on those islands.

Cuba is next in line to bear the brunt of a probable direct hit by the emboldened Hurricane Ike. The people on that island are accustomed to storms, but they no longer have the tools and supplies to endure hurricanes without great suffering and hardship. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Cuban governments are already in a pissing match over sending and receiving aid following Gustav.

1Click2Cuba observed that “Cuban officials on Saturday urged the US to loosen the decades-old trade embargo on the island in the wake of deadly flooding caused by powerful storms”, while Havana-based blogger Yoani Sanchez noted:

From the United States there is talk about a moratorium on sanctions against Cuba as a way to help those affected. Lamentably, to relax those awkward regulations for only three months will not be enough.

And when man-made measures are not enough, the people of the Caribbean always seem to turn to prayer. Uncommon Sense posted a prayer to Our Lady of Charity, Patroness of Cuba:

Whether due to divine providence or just coincidence, Monday, Sept. 8, when the island will be under full assault by Hurricane Ike, is the feast day for Cuba's patroness, Our Lady of Charity (Nuestra Señora del la Caridad del Cobre.) Please take a moment during these trying times for Cuba and the Cuban people, to remember them in your prayers and ask Our Lady to intercede on their behalf for their safety and protection.

Generation Y echoed his sentiment in a post in honour of Cachita, the nickname of the island's patron saint:

Today, as in other years, we should be buying sunflowers and parading your image through the most central streets of the city, but Hurricane Ike has overshadowed your day. Around Nipe Bay, where they found your image 396 years ago, they are overwhelmed by the wind and rain. An intense prayer rises from the homes of the whole Island: “Free us from all evil and with your protective mantle cover our devastated land.”


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