THERE is no doubt that the Caribbean region on a whole is perturbed by the hurricane season which occurs annually from June to November and as the rhyme goes, “June too soon, July stand by, August come it must, September remember, October all over”.
Unfortunately, similar to the various changes the world over, October no longer represents the end of the hurricane season. Consequently, we need to make December our deadline. As we move forward with the acceptance that our small island states with limited finances and services remain in the path of these unpredictable storms, we must think positively, practically and sensibly. By this, we mean taking measures to buy time for the victims once the storm has come and gone.
One way of addressing this issue is by simply securing a well-constructed warehouse approximately 60,000 sq. feet similar to a Mega J-type construction, fully-stocked with water and dry foods. A limited amount of cold storage space should be available and this warehouse should have its own generator. A competent organisation should be engaged to operate the facility to ensure maximum efficiency.
Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skeritt’s system of vouchers duly signed by recipients once the items are distributed should be introduced and with this method in place, it would cut down on the fraudulent behaviour of recipients during the recovery period.
The warehouse should have armed officers attached to avoid looting which all the ravaged islands witnessed. A special security force should be placed on notice both locally and abroad depending on the magnitude of the hurricane to deal with the scale of looting and enforcement of law and order.
The warehouse can be financed by the NIC and a group of wholesalers on island can get together and supply the suitable items. Once the season is over, the suppliers can take back their items and government will compensate them for the expenses incurred during that 120- day period.
The cost of erecting and preparing such a facility will not exceed EC$10 million (i.e. land and structure), but that is a small price to pay, as having to airlift and sea freight items into a country where both the airports and seaports are usually compromised this makes life far more difficult for everyone and that in itself is not an option. Such a seamless 10-day transaction is one way to address the chaos.
On another score, St. Lucia should ensure that we have at least three proper hurricane shelters, each with its own generator with an adequate number of ceiling fans and attached to those shelters should be an acceptable number of cots and blankets. These are minimum requirements which must remain available to avoid the chaos we have witnessed amongst the islands which have been so severely ravaged.