Weeks after two of the strongest hurricanes ravaged Caribbean islands, the Guyana Government is still encountering difficulties in evacuating hundreds of Guyanese from those territories.
Minister of Citizenship, Winston Felix, who recently led a needs assessment team to the Caribbean, is back in Guyana and told reporters on Thursday that Guyanese nationals expressed a preference to remain and rebuild, but want their children evacuated.
“Our priority will go towards children … what we saw, at least in Tortola, 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,” he stated.
He noted, however, that the requirements for children to travel alone are very taxing.
“To move children, you have to deal with the immigration … they must first seek the advice and support of the immigration of the island … there are certain requirements for children, even from Guyana. So once they get that clear, then the other issues will creep in. they will have to move to Antigua for further movement to Guyana,” Felix explained.
He said the Princess Juliana Airport in St Marteen cannot accommodate commercial flights at the moment and it may be challenging to have children fly alone without the assistance of adults or air hostesses.
The airport is expected to be reopened by the end of September, according to Felix.
Though reports indicate that a significant number of adult Guyanese nationals have requested evacuation, the Minister said: “we had a lot of duplication and other issues crept in and we left that list behind to be sanitised so that we would have a true reflection of those who really need to be evacuated.”
Felix said acquiring more precise data is a challenge given that communication networks are not stable as a result of the hurricanes.
News Room was informed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a record of at least 200 Guyanese nationals who have requested evacuation, however, those numbers are subject to change as more persons make requests, or as existing requests are rescinded.
Meanwhile, the government has amplified its relief efforts to the Caribbean and so far has benefited from the assistance of the British military.
The United Kingdom (UK) will deploy a C-130 military aircraft to Guyana to uplift at least 10 containers of various relief supplies for countries recently ravaged by the hurricanes, according to Minister of State, Joseph Harmon.
Harmon noted that the British High Commission here said the country stands ready to lend another aircraft if needed to reinforce the shuttling of the relief supplies.
Already, a local businessman sent 200,900lbs of relief, medical, food and hygiene supplies to Antigua.
All supplies will be delivered to Antigua and then distributed to governments by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).
Additionally, the government will be hosting a national telethon on the National Communications Network (NCN) Channel 11 on September 23, 2017 (Saturday) from 20:00hrs to raise funds to contribute to the relief efforts.