From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Recovery from Hurricane Damage
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
"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 PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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