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Last Updated: Friday, 24 September, 2004, 12:30 GMT 13:30 UK
Coping after Hurricane Ivan
Pile of boats
Damaged boats in the Bayou Grande Marina, Florida
Hurricane Ivan swept across the Caribbean and parts of the US earlier this month killing dozens of people and destroying homes and crops.

People living in the region told BBC News Online about their experiences during and after the storm.


"I had to bathe by pouring a cup of cold water over my body"
Shannon Hart, Jamaica

" I found my son's bed down the street in a bush"
Marc, Grand Cayman

"I was afraid people would come in so I slept with a kitchen knife"
Heather Fultz, Grenada
"The eye of the storm passed. Everything went eerily quiet"
Roger Aiken, Alabama, US


SHANNON HART, KINGSTON, JAMAICA

I spent the whole hurricane mopping up the floor, where water was seeping into my living room, and wringing out the towels.

Some roads had been totally washed away
The exhaust fan in the ceiling was whirling around so fast the bearings broke. My uncle climbed into the attic and had to tie it down so that it wouldn't gain lift and take the roof with it.

We were trapped in our house with only flashlights on and candles lit.

Sleeping on my bed in the middle of my room was impossible.

The following morning it was safe to go back outside. The tree out the back of our house had been completely stripped and part of it had fallen on our neighbour's house.

Light poles, trees and bushes ad been carelessly thrown by Ivan into the streets. Some roads had been totally washed away.

Shannon Hart sent in her pictures of Kingston Jamaica after Hurricane Ivan.

The looting started as soon as the hurricane passed over and communities broke out in gun warfare.

For a week after Ivan I had to bathe by pouring a cup of cold water over my body, soaping up and then using a cup again to rinse (making sure not to waste a drop of water).

Ice became so scarce that people would wait for hours until the ice truck came and security had to escort it into the stores.

I volunteered to help the Red Cross and have seen the people most seriously affected by the hurricane. The devastation is terrible. I have been preparing and dropping off food packages and also registering people who have lost their homes in the very remote areas.

MARC THOMAS, GRAND CAYMAN

Works in real estate and shipping and has been in the Cayman Islands for 14 years. He lives with his wife and three young children.

It was a twist of fate that I survived Hurricane Ivan. I had booked my wife and children on a chartered flight out of the Cayman Islands. If they had gone I would have taken refuge in my now, totally destroyed, house.

However as the predicted route of the hurricane was set to miss us, we thought that evacuating wasn't necessary and took refuge in a hurricane shelter in Georgetown.

We watched Hurricane Ivan through the thick reinforced glass of the shelter. It was total destruction. We watched buildings being torn apart. The sky was grey with all kinds of debris - foliage, road signs and housing materials.

There were 40 condominiums on the south side of the island. When I passed them to go and see the damage to my property, the only thing left was the concrete blocks on which they used to stand.

Our house was all but demolished. It was made of concrete and bricks, not the flimsy materials that I can imagine people think Caribbean houses are made of. I found my son's bed 250yds (230m) down the street in a bush.

My children's toys were spread round the garden and the street. They were so badly damaged. We didn't have time to take them and they keep asking for their favourite teddies. I don't know what to say to them.

Sometimes I just break down. All that we have has gone.

Anything that wasn't destroyed by Ivan has been taken by looters
Anything that wasn't destroyed by Ivan has been taken by looters. They even tipped over my fish tank to take the bowl with them.

One of my friends is missing.

In a country that has no problems with guns or violence, armed guards now patrol the supermarkets. Some people are mercenaries banking in on the chaos but some are poor people desperate for the essentials of food, water and torches.

The Cayman Islands has lots of poor people - people who had little and now have nothing. We islanders pride ourselves on hospitality and helping each other. One of my friends now has 12 people living in his house, four of whom he doesn't even know.

I am one of the lucky ones. I have managed to get me and my family out.

Tomorrow I will return to the Cayman Islands and try to think of a way to rebuild our lives.

What the country needs is help. We need generators and fresh water, we need to get the sewage system back up and running.

What we definitely don't need is disinformation. The Cayman Islands survives on its dual industries of finance and tourism. Some people think it can't afford to be open about the level of destruction, but I think much more is at stake if we keep quiet about it.

HEATHER FULTZ, GRENADA

Third-year student at St George's University in Grenada.

They shut the university when they heard a tropical storm was coming.

I stocked up with bottled water and went to my flat, but when I checked the internet for the storm's progress, it seemed to be gaining force. Me and three friends decided to head inland and stay together in L'Anse-aux-Epines.

Heather Fultz from the University of St George's in Grenada sent in her photographs

The wind picked up and blew the roof off the house. Thank God we were on the ground floor. We had bolted all the doors shut but the wind was too powerful and blew them open. It also blew out several windows.

When the eye of the storm came, we left the house and went outside. It was very quiet. There was no wind. It felt surreal, as if we were experiencing something extreme and on the edge of human existence.

Outside, it was as if a giant had trampled through the area. Trees were flattened and the buildings looked like they had been abandoned years ago and left to ruin.

Someone was trying on pairs of shoes to decide which ones to steal
When the wind started up again, the gusts picked up all the loose debris and threw it against the house we were in. This included huge water tanks, big branches and the roof of a neighbouring house.

When I went back to my apartment I found it had been destroyed. All my possessions were ruined. My computer was useless and my university notes were unsalvageable.

The shops under the apartment complex were being openly looted. Someone was trying on pairs of shoes to decide which ones to steal. They had brought bags to fill with goods.

We went back to the house in L'Anse-aux-Epines and made up beds as best we could.

We barricaded what was left of the doors and tried to sleep. I was afraid people would come into the house and I slept with a kitchen knife.

We couldn't contact one of our friends. We got hold of a chainsaw to rid the road of trees and got through to her. She was okay but shaken.

We made it back to the university. The student government were in charge. They were getting students out of Grenada, starting with any who had medical problems. Everyone else got a number. When they called out your number you got a seat on the plane.

Homeless locals have moved into the parts of the university that have survived the hurricane. There is no electricity or running water and Grenada has a lot of work to do.

ROGER AITKEN, ALABAMA, US

Works in the computer industry and lives with his wife in Mobile Bay, near Fairhope.

The power of the wind was swelling, throwing things against the house.

My wife and I sat inside the house listening to local radio and waited for Ivan.

Road signs and mailboxes were bent sideways by the strength of the wind
When the eye of the storm passed, everything went eerily quiet. It is as if you want to believe that it's over, but you know it's just the middle of the chaos. After 45 minutes of respite the wind started to roar again and then came the rain.

The next morning I stepped out of the house to survey the damage. I couldn't see the grass - it was covered in pine needles and debris. Thankfully our house had not been damaged but a 50ft (15m) pine tree in the back yard had snapped in half and split down the middle.

In the neighbourhood, fences and posts were littering streets and yards. Shutters had been torn off houses and road signs and mailboxes were bent sideways by the strength of the wind.

The tidal surge must have been 20ft (6m) tall, pushing rubbish from the bay into the streets and washing away a brick sidewalk that ran along the waters edge.




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