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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Hurricane Beryl caused ‘unimaginable’ damage in Grenada, leader says



Officials in Grenada said about 98% of the buildings on the islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique, where about 6,000 people live, had been damaged or destroyed, including Carriacou’s main health facility, the Princess Royal Hospital, and its airport and marinas. (Harvey Vale & Tyrell Bay/Facebook)

By Emiliano Rodríguez Mega


As Hurricane Beryl headed toward Jamaica and the Cayman Islands early Wednesday as a powerful Category 4 storm, a clearer picture emerged of the devastation it had caused on two small islands in Grenada, with that country’s leader calling the destruction “unimaginable” and “total.”


“We have to rebuild from the ground up,” Grenada’s prime minister, Dickon Mitchell, said at a briefing after visiting the islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique, which were ravaged by Beryl on Monday.


Officials said about 98% of the buildings on the islands, where about 6,000 people live, had been damaged or destroyed, including Carriacou’s main health facility, the Princess Royal Hospital, and its airport and marinas. As of Tuesday night, there was no electricity on either island, and communications were down. Crops had been ravaged, and fallen trees and utility poles littered the streets.


The natural environment also took a beating. “There is literally no vegetation left anywhere on the island of Carriacou, the mangroves are totally destroyed,” Mitchell said.


But the death toll appeared to be low. Officials have reported three deaths from the storm in Grenada, two of them in Carriacou. Another was reported in the Caribbean country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said on Tuesday that three deaths had been reported in that country’s north.


Beryl, which peaked as a Category 5 storm Tuesday morning, is still expected to be a major hurricane when it reaches Jamaica and the Cayman Islands on Wednesday, either hitting them directly or coming close. Prime Minister Andrew Holness addressed the Jamaican public on Tuesday night, imposing a 12-hour curfew to start at 6 a.m. An evacuation order was issued for low-lying areas.


In the Caymans, a hardware store packed with shoppers was rationing sandbags, and residents with plenty of hurricane experience were bracing for Beryl.


“We get waves and wind, and we make the best of it, but this — this is going to be on a whole other level,” said Luigi Moxam, the owner of Cayman Cabana, a waterfront restaurant in George Town, the Caymans’ capital. He said he had spent Tuesday morning “peeling away the restaurant to skeletal form.”


Mitchell said that many people on Grenada’s main island had lost their homes, but that the destruction was far worse on Carriacou and Petite Martinique. Officials were still trying to assess the extent of the damage on the two islands, particularly to the power grid and water supply.


Grenada, like other Caribbean nations, gets most of its drinking water from rainwater harvesting, involving drains on roofs that lead to storage vessels. Terrence Smith, the head of the country’s water agency, said the storm damage was not expected to immediately cause a life-threatening shortage on Carriacou and Petite Martinique.


“We believe that is very unlikely,” Smith said on Tuesday. “If it is correct that most houses have lost their roofs, then they can’t harvest rainwater anymore. But many of these households have weeks of storage.”


Still, a recent dry spell has led many households on the islands to depend on desalination plants for water, and Smith said the plants on Carriacou and Petite Martinique were “probably negatively impacted by the hurricane.” That system had been under strain well before the hurricane arrived.


Beryl has set records as the first Category 4 hurricane, and then the first Category 5 storm, to form in the Atlantic Ocean so early in the season. A recent study found that with ocean temperatures rising, hurricanes in the Atlantic have become likelier to grow from a weak storm into a major one of Category 3 or higher within just 24 hours.


Mitchell called Beryl a direct result of global warming, saying that Grenada and countries like it were on the frontline of the climate crisis. “We are no longer prepared to accept that it’s OK for us to constantly suffer significant, clearly demonstrated loss and damage arising from climatic events and be expected to rebuild year after year while the countries that are responsible for creating this situation — and exacerbating this situation — sit idly by,” he said.

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