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Press Release September 9, 2004

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Press Release

 

PAHO Mobilizes Staff to Caribbean for Hurricane Ivan


Washington, D.C., September 9, 2004 (OPS)—The Pan American Health Organization is mobilizing eight experts to the Caribbean to help deal with Hurricane Ivan, the most powerful storm to hit the Caribbean in ten years. A category 5 storm, Ivan now continues on its destructive path to Jamaica after devastating the island of Grenada and causing severe damage Tuesday to the southern islands of the Grenadines (primarily Carriacou) and, to a lesser extent, Barbados and St. Vincent.

PAHO's well-experienced Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief unit sent experts to Grenada, Jamaica, Haiti and Barbados, and has a Supply Management team standing by. A PAHO health services specialist formed part of a joint assessment mission to Grenada, and PAHO staff including a disaster expert and a sanitary engineer are joining a USAID mission to Grenada today. The U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) has already provided initial relief supplies to Grenada, consisting of water purification equipment, plastic sheeting, and water storage containers.

Grenada has received the brunt of the storm so far, with concrete homes destroyed, trees uprooted and roofs ripped from many buildings. The island’s only referral hospital, St. George’s, has been severely damaged but is partly operational. The Princess Alice Hospital is not functioning due to structural damage.

A team of experts in SUMA, the humanitarian supply management system, will be deployed to Grenada tomorrow, according to Dr. Jean-Luc Poncelet, who heads PAHO’s emergency preparedness unit. PAHO preliminary reports indicate that the primary needs in the health sector are for epidemiological surveillance for disease control, environmental health, water supplies and shelter.

A rapid needs assessment team was formed that also includes specialists from the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), International Federation of the Red Cross, UNICEF, and other agencies. A vessel with relief supplies from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) of Trinidad and Tobago leaves Thursday for Grenada.

In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, houses have been damaged, but the Health Disaster Coordinator says the main hospital in Kingstown did not appear to have sustained severe damage. There is no call for international assistance. However, in the islands of the Grenadines, the main hospitals in Union Island, St. Andrews and Carriacou lost their roofs. In Carriacou there are reports of blown away and damaged roofs in houses. The island’s school has also lost its roof. There are many downed trees and severe flooding. Some telephone lines are down.

Although Trinidad and Tobago was supposed to take direct hit, it was spared the worst of the damage. However, one death was reported and there was damage to roofs in Tobago.

Barbados reported serious damage to private residences, but the Queen Elizabeth Hospital appears to have escaped serious damage. Attention is now focused on Jamaica as Hurricane Ivan heads there and is expected to strike tomorrow. PAHO staff in Jamaica and Haiti are also making preparations.

According to the U.S. National Hurricane Center, "Ivan continues to be extremely dangerous (and is) heading for the Western Caribbean Sea." A hurricane warning is in effect for Jamaica, a hurricane watch and a tropical storm warning remain in effect for southwest Haiti, and hurricane watches are in effect for the Cayman islands, the Dominican Republic, and central and eastern Cuba. The center said Ivan is moving toward the west-northwest at 15 mph and on this track the hurricane will be nearing Jamaica on Friday. It said "Ivan is a extremely dangerous category five hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, with maximum sustained winds near 160 mph, with higher gusts."

PAHO, the world's oldest international health organization, has been working with all the countries of the Americas since 1902 to improve the health and quality of life of their peoples. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization.
   



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