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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 September, 2004, 20:33 GMT 21:33 UK
Caribbean counts cost of Hurricane Ivan
By Robert Plummer
BBC News Online

The ravages of Hurricane Ivan have left deep scars across the Caribbean - but despite a lingering sense of shock, the victims are trying to put their lives in order once again.

In Grenada, where 37 people died and roughly two-thirds of the 100,000 inhabitants have been left homeless, shops and banks have begun to reopen, while people are attempting to repair their battered homes.

A woman takes shelter in Grenada
Grenada was the worst hit, with thousands of homes destroyed
Jamaica faces what officials are calling "pockets of devastation", with food supplies running low in places and up to 15,000 people in shelters.

Cuba was spared the full force of the hurricane, which struck sparsely populated areas in the west.

The Cayman Islands were not so lucky, suffering widespread damage, but local radio stations have praised the "tremendous" community spirit of the people as clean-up efforts continue.

The British territory's spokesman in London has described reports of looting and disorder as "exaggerated".

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent has launched a $4.8m appeal aimed at bringing aid to these storm-damaged areas.

Red Cross workers from around the world are leading the local relief efforts - but they warn that restoring the region's shattered infrastructure will take time.

'State of shock'

Richard North, who is leading the Red Cross logistics unit in Grenada, told BBC News Online that 90% of buildings on the island had suffered some kind of damage.

"Some buildings have been completely flattened," he said. "But the majority have four walls and at least part of a roof, so lots of people are fixing plastic sheeting on their roofs to keep the rain out."

There's still a lot of trauma, but people are getting on with their lives
Richard North, British Red Cross delegate in Grenada
Mr North said Grenadians were "in a state of shock" for the first few days after Hurricane Ivan struck.

"They were completely taken by surprise by the ferocity of this. It's been tough on the people here - they're just not used to it."

Ivan initially arrived on the island in the form of fierce winds, but with no rain, Mr North said.

"It ripped all the roofs off, then afterwards came this torrential downpour that soaked all the houses," he said.

One of the worst-hit buildings was the headquarters of Grenada's own national Red Cross society, which was completely destroyed - just as officials were trying to build an extension to the premises.

With the island's emergency relief operations in disarray, Mr North says people were in a state of panic when he and two other British Red Cross delegates arrived in the aftermath of the storm.

Powerlines down across a street in Georgetown, Grand Cayman
Rebuilding efforts have just begun in the Caymans
"There was a lot of looting to start with, because warehouses and shops were so damaged that it was very easy to walk into them," he says.

"Now there's a curfew in force, but no security problems any more. There's still a lot of trauma, but people are getting on with their lives."

Outside the capital, St George's, however, there are still food shortages, and Mr North admits the Red Cross is under pressure to distribute food parcels as quickly as possible.

"People come up to us, actually pulling on our shirts, saying, 'We need food'," he says.

'Hands on deck'

The Red Cross is also planning a relief flight to the Cayman Islands, where initial estimates indicate that nearly 20% of homes have been completely destroyed, while a further 20% have suffered major damage.

However, Radio Cayman news editor Joel Francis told the BBC's Caribbean Service that it was "all hands on deck" as people pooled their efforts to rebuild each other's houses.

"I don't think there is anyone in the Cayman Islands who has not been affected," he said. "The question simply is the degree to which you were affected."

Jamaica has also been receiving Red Cross relief supplies, but the UK Department for International Development (DFID) says food stocks in the Blue Mountain region are reported to be running low.

Other badly affected areas include Westmoreland, Claredon, Morant Bay and May Pen.

"It is not thought there is widespread devastation, but there are pockets of devastation," a DFID statement said.


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