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Caribbean Deluge Disaster Raises New Climate Change Warnings


On Christmas Eve, the islands of the eastern Caribbean were hammered by 15 inches of torrential rain. The flooding and landslides killed at least 13 people. South Florida’s Caribbean diaspora is gathering relief supplies - and officials are sounding the climate change alarm.

Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, calls last week’s downpour “a disaster of a proportion…we have not seen in living memory.” Gonsalves himself lost a cousin killed in a landslide.

St. Lucia, just north of St. Vincent, was also hard hit. Anastasia Fevrier, who heads The Children of Helen in Palm Beach, Florida Inc., a group of St. Lucia ex-patriates from St. Lucia, says her relatives there described the harrowing devastation to her:

“It’s like the water just rose and just covered their homes completely," Fevrier said. "So they are without anything at this time--clothing, food, furniture, everything has been destroyed. Some of the roads have been impassable. It is one of the worst situations we’ve had.”

In South Florida and New York, Caribbean diaspora organizations like The Children of Helen are marshaling donations to badly affected islands that also include Dominica and Barbados.

“What we’re trying to get out to the island at this time is a lot of clothing, canned goods, dry goods, toiletries," Fevrier said. "And we need a lot of shovels to help people get rid of debris. And water of course, since our water supplies in the Caribbean are often compromised.”

The storm wasn’t just sudden and extreme – it was rare this time of year for the Caribbean, a region already concerned about sea level rise. All of that prompted a warning this week from the head of the Washington-based Organization of Americans States, José Miguel Insulza, who said the December 24 calamity suggests “the impact of climate change in the Caribbean.”

You can contact The Children of Helen at 561-598-8915 or 561-714-9981.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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