BY: VANESSA ERDELYI
Hurricane Irma has been the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic, since Hurricane Catrina in 2005. It was deemed a category 5 by the National Hurricane Center. Tragically many lives were lost. Rest in Peace. Hurricane Irma has caused over 60 billion dollars worth of damage. Many people were injured, without power, water, and even food. Hurricane Irma started on August 30th , 2017, and ended on September 15th, 2017.
There were tourists that were vacationing in the Caribbean when the hurricane hit, Most had to evacuate their resorts immediately, end their vacation early and go back home. Hotel staff, airlines, and travel agents had worked so hard to safely bring back tourists.
Some of the beautiful Caribbean islands have been left devastated or destroyed. The hurricane pulled even the largest trees out from the ground, blew cars into the air, blew roofs off homes, demolished houses, stores, schools and more. Some of the islands that were severely damaged were Barbuda, Cuba, Florida, Dominican Republic, St. Martin, Haiti, US Virgin Islands, Turks & Cacaos, and St. Kitts.
To make matters worse, a second catastrophic hurricane hit the islands. Hurricane Maria has severely devastated Puerto Rico and Dominica. Many lives were also lost as a result of this hurricane. Others are homeless and in shelters. Millions of residents are without power; in fact, the entire Island of Puerto Rico has no power. Only those lucky enough to have a generator are able to have power. The governor of Puerto Rico stated it could be several months before power is working. Puerto Rico is also under a government-enforced public curfew. Nobody is allowed out of their homes between 6 pm and 6 am.
The island of Dominica was also placed under a curfew after the hurricane hit. The government also put the island under an official State of Emergency. All travel to Dominican is not recommended, by Global Affairs Canada. Several deaths have also been reported. Homes, building, and structures were severely damaged.
The islands of Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Bahamas, Jamaica and some cities in Cuba suffered minor or no damage. Not all of the islands are fully operational. Although Cuba did suffer a dangerous hit from Hurricane Irma, some cities and properties remain intact or only suffered minor damages, which has already been restored. Some resorts in Varadero Cuba are still safe as if nothing happened. Other areas in Cuba like Holguin have not been affected at all. On the other hand, Islands like St. Martin have a complete travel ban, airports are closed and all international flights are cancelled. It is not expected to be fit for tourism until January 2018.
In the event that you are ever in a country with an active hurricane, here are a few tips to keep safe:
- Relocate to a different country if possible
- Stay indoors in a centrally located room on the main floor
- Stay in contact and update family/social media
- Turn off electricity at the main breaker if flooding could be an issue
- Do not go outside (high winds and flying debris can be life-threatening)
There are several ways that we can help to re-establish these affected islands. One way is to donate to an established Hurricane Irma or Maria charity. Any amount is better than nothing. Another way to help is to continue with your travel plans if possible. If your destination or resort has been directly affected or closed down, you may still have options to change or book a different location that has not been affected. Speak with your travel agent for specific details. Another way to help contribute, and re-establish, is to continue to purchase goods that have been imported from the affected country (even as simple as fruits or vegetables). Any income earned by those foreign businesses will help the country’s economy.
Overall, the Caribbean has experienced a series of tragic and devastating hurricanes this season. It is unfortunate that we can’t prevent these types of natural disasters from occurring. Let’s work together and help in any way we can.