BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Thursday June 23, 2016, BGIS – Residents of Barbados are being urged not to wait until they realize that “galvanize could fly”, or their possessions blown away, before recognizing the importance of being prepared this 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season.
Deanzer Roberts, a journalist, is usually the one telling other peoples’ stories. But it was her turn to relate her experience when she addressed students during the inaugural Schools’ Hurricane Symposium hosted by the Department of Emergency Management in Barbados this week.
She was living in Grenada when Hurricane Ivan struck on September 7, 2004.
2004 – Hurricane Ivan, a Category 5 hurricane hits Grenada, killing 39 and damaging 90% of its buildings
— On This Date Facts™ (@OnThisDateFacts) September 7, 2015
“I was recovering from surgery after a very rough pregnancy and the delivery of a lovely baby girl on August 12 that year. Less than a month after, tragedy struck. I lost my daughter’s godmother; I lost my co-worker; I lost my home that my daughter’s father and I built; I lost my possessions, and almost lost my partner, and I was out in the wind,” Roberts recounted.
She recalled that water was a scarce commodity, and one bottle bathed and fed a number of children. “We were at the mercy of God,” she said, adding her shelter at the time was in a basement.
When the 125 miles per hour winds had subsided, there was a trail of destruction in its wake totalling over US$900 million, and 90 per cent of the homes on the Spice Isle were destroyed.
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“It was so bad that prisoners were seen roaming the streets and police passed them by because it made no sense picking them up because the 17th Century stone prison was destroyed,” she told her avid listeners.
Roberts said all of the island’s police stations were damaged, as was the Prime Minister’s residence and office, forcing him to work from a Royal Navy Vessel. She added that with no electricity or running water, people started looting, and a state of emergency was put into effect that required residents to be in doors by 6 p.m.
“What went wrong?” she asked rhetorically. “I saw a people that believed that God was a Grenadian…,” she lamented, noting it was a concept that prevailed throughout the Caribbean, including Barbados.
But with the assistance of countries throughout the region which responded with supplies or manpower to aid the cleanup efforts, the country was able to rebuild. In addition, Roberts said, Grenadians were a resilient people, and they adopted the “back to basics” principle; and assisted each other in rebuilding, while making changes to protect themselves in the future.
“Many rebuilt their homes with different types of roofs. Some even used concrete roofs, some moved away from low-lying areas to avoid flooding and after seeing many houses [being] washed away, they simply relocated. In almost every backyard there is a [water] drum, and they continue to do awareness campaigns as to the dangers and the dos and don’ts, and why you must be prepared,” the hurricane survivor noted.
That is why her message to residents of Barbados is: “It is time to prepare for what can happen. It makes no sense saying God is a Barbadian. Safeguard yourselves, your families and your properties, and in return, that will safeguard the country.”
Failure to do so, she warned, could result in Barbados finding itself in a worse situation than the people of Grenada.
She questioned whether, with the Crop Over 2016 moving into high gear, many have given any thought to preparing for the hurricane season. “How many people are preparing for, and have bought their costumes for Kadooment Day and Foreday Morning, and do not have as much as a candle at home, a lantern or a lamp?” Roberts wondered aloud.
She has pleaded with residents to follow the hurricane preparedness tips given by the Department of Emergency Management and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, and to safeguard their future against any storms that make their way across the Atlantic.