From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Recovery from Hurricane Damage

Date 04 May 1996 20:41:33


95405             Recovery from Hurricane Damage 
                       in Caribbean Is Slow 
                          by Alexa Smith 
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--The shift from supplying emergency aid to beginning 
long-term rehabilitation has been slow on Caribbean islands still 
floundering after a string of hurricanes this fall, according to relief 
workers there. 
     "Things have been getting a little bit back to normal," said Conrad 
Mason, director of the disaster program for the Caribbean Conference of 
Churches (CCC) in Barbados.  He said electricity is restored on islands 
like Antigua, "but the rehabilitation program is still to be started in a 
number of cases." 
     Relief workers say evaluations are under way to determine what 
specific projects will be funded on islands where most people rely on a now 
severely damaged tourist industry for income.  Information is coming in 
slowly from islands where no established church response network exists. 
     Church World Service (CWS) -- which has received only 10 percent of 
the money it sought from mainline denominations after Hurricanes Luis (a 
$100,000 appeal) and Marilyn (a $250,000 appeal)  -- has received reports 
from two Presbyterian clergy who are just back from the Caribbean after 
nearly three weeks of assessment. 
     "It's still at the emergency stage as far as we're concerned," said 
Jerry Bilton, CWS director of emergency response.  "My understanding is 
that people are still looking for basic necessities."  
      The CCC is still awaiting specific data from St. Martin, where, Mason 
said, the Dutch portion of the island was seriously damaged.  Emergency 
work is winding up now on Antigua and Dominica, he said.  "[St. Martin] is 
clearly worse than Antigua in terms of [damaged] structures," he added. 
     Synod executive the Rev. Harry del Valle of Puerto Rico told the 
Presbyterian News Service that rebuilding is just now beginning on Culebra 
and Viequez, two islands off Puerto Rico's coast.  Culebra lost more than 
60 percent of its housing, he said, and volunteers and building materials 
are needed now through the spring. 
     He said numerous families have been forced to move in with relatives 
in Puerto Rico until construction gets under way. 
     The Rev. Richard Krajeski, who serves Presbyterian churches in 
Mannington and Shinnston, W.Va., said workers in the islands' service 
industry were hit hard.  Krajeski just returned from St. Croix as part of 
CWS's assessment team. 
     "These people make minimum wage with real limited benefits, and when 
the tourist industry goes down they feel the impact more than anyone else," 
he said. Business owners often have insurance. "But," Krajeski said, "many 
employees in the industry are stuck" -- without jobs and having been unable 
to afford insurance to safeguard their homes. 
     While Mason said recovery has been slowed somewhat because of the need 
to import goods from outside the islands, Bilton stressed the sheer extent 
of the damage itself as another hindrance.  "The devastation," he said, 
"was so extensive." 
     Krajeski said disaster survivors distinguish between services 
dispensed by federal agencies and care given by churches.  "Real healing 
from a disaster is spiritual," he said.  "And if real healing does not take 
place ... there is not recovery, even if everything is back in place." 

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073  
  E-mail   Web page: 


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