The government has initiated the process to begin the evacuation of Guyanese citizens in hurricane hit Caribbean countries and it has donated a GY$10M to relief efforts.
Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, during a meeting with Private Sector officials Monday, announced that the Guyana Government made the donation to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management (CDEMA) fund.
CDEMA, CARICOM’s coordinating agency, is currently conducting assessments of the hurricane battered islands and providing situation reports to CARICOM countries like Guyana, in a position the render assistance.
During the meeting, private sector officials brainstormed ideas on how to get relief to the affected countries and the Prime Minister pledged government’s commitment to respond this regional crisis in a coordinated approach.
Major General Retired Joe Singh suggested the establishment of bank accounts for the wider population to make donations if desirous.
He also recommended that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or any relevant agency to set up a mechanism for Guyanese to provide information on relatives who were residing in affected countries.
Singh further advised that the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GTT) and the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) mobilise technicians to render assistance to help rebuild communities.
He also suggested that Guyana focus on providing assistance to countries that are not already receiving help from international organizations and other governments, however, he cautioned that all efforts must fit into the coordinating agency’s (CDEMA) scheme of plans.
On the issue of evacuation, however, the government said efforts are underway to determine how best this process can be executed.
Nagamootoo told the News Room after the meeting that the question of evacuation is a complex one.
“A Guyanese living in one of the islands may choose to go to the United States or Canada or Britain or France. They’re Guyanese nationals but they may be citizens of other countries and they have a right to choose,” he explained.
Nagamootoo added that “it’s a question of doing an inventory of who are the persons affected and then you’ll have to do the protocols. In the hurricane, many Guyanese would have lost their travel documents and therefore you’ll have to reconstruct documents, you have to be able to create identities for people so that they can be afforded either with or without documents to come to Guyana.”
He further explained that government will have to consider those Guyanese nationals who will require various forms of assistance if the return to Guyana.
Furthermore, the Prime Minister said a Task Force was established to make attempts to access information about the number of Guyanese affected and the places where they are affected and to make general appeals to Guyanese in the Caribbean to get in touch with the Consulates in those areas or in other parts, where they can access Consulate services.
“We need the information as to Guyanese who may want to be evacuated or who may want assistance in this point in time of a specific nature,” he is quoted as saying in a statement from the Ministry of the Presidency.
The Office of the Leader of the Opposition, in a statement today, reiterated calls made by the PPP General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo for government to act swiftly to initiate steps to evacuate Guyanese desirous of coming home.
“Hurricane Irma has practically reduced some of these islands to ground zero. It is, therefore, incumbent upon the Government of Guyana to take immediate action,” the statement read.
Meanwhile, the private sector and government agreed to form a subcommittee to coordinate the national effort.
The Civil Defence Commission (CDC) promised to distribute to the private sector a list of items needed to be dispatched to the affected countries.
These items include materials for constructing temporary shelters, food, water and sanitation, and medicine.
Private Sector Commission representative Ramesh Dookhoo said once the list is received, it will be sent out to about 5000 persons who can make donations.
Captain Gerald Gouveia, Managing Director of Roraima Airways and Brian Tiwari, Managing Director of BK Marine, committed to lending assistance to transport the cargo by sea and air respectively once fuel is donated.
The CDC said it will make available a list of working ports, as many points of entry were destroyed when the super storm swept through the islands.
The CDC has been working with CDEMA in gathering information about the situation in the affected countries.
Deputy Director General of the CDC, Major Kestor Craig told the high-level meeting that Barbuda, Anguilla, BVI, Turks and Caicos and St. Martins islands significantly affected – with a total of 26 confirmed deaths across the Caribbean.
The last report received was early Monday morning but Craig said an update on the status in Cuba is expected to be received later this afternoon.
CDC noted too that the number of persons dead and missing is expected to rise as communications and access are gradually restored across the Caribbean.
The British Virgin Islands (BVI), where over 1500 Guyanese reside, has declared a state of emergency – with over 120 prisoners on the streets after the prison was destroyed in the storm.
The Dutch and French territories of St Martin/Sint Maarten are also faced with a similar situation – with 95%of the French part of Sint Maartin destroyed and some 250 inmates at large coupled with widespread looting.