The International Federation Of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is urgently appealing for $1.3 million to help 35,000 people affected by Hurricane Dean. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Red Cross headquarters in Geneva the Swiss agency says more appeals are likely as the hurricane season progresses.
Hurricane Dean is the first hurricane of this year's Atlantic storm season. It has left a trail of death and destruction in the Caribbean. Anna Nelson, a Red Cross spokeswoman, says this is creating a great deal of anxiety among the residents of these beautiful, but vulnerable islands.
"What must be most difficult is knowing that this is the first storm of the season. That there could and are likely to be others to come," she said. "I am sure that there is a sense of relief that they have weathered the worst of this storm and what was a very severe storm. But, I think in general knowing that this could happen again, certainly is not easy for people and, I know, creates a lot of anxiety."
Dean reached Category 5, the strongest type of hurricane. It whipped through six Caribbean islands in mid-August before tearing into Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, near the border with Belize. Eleven people were reportedly killed.
The fierce winds tore roofs off buildings and uprooted trees, flooded streets, damaged houses and destroyed agricultural crops. The full extent of the damage is not yet known. But, the United Nations estimates that the island of Martinique alone suffered losses of around $200 million.
Although the damage has been extensive, Anna Nelson says it could have been a lot worse had the volunteer Red Cross Societies not been well prepared for the disaster.
"We saw many thousands of people evacuated. The Red Cross was involved in making sure that even radio messages were going out to warn people in indigenous languages so that the system really was in place to make sure people were in safe shelters when the storm struck," added Nelson. "And, to provide them as well with food and blankets and the things they needed if they were not able to return to their homes. So, we need to make sure that that same level of preparedness is in place next time."
The Red Cross says farming and fishing communities are among the hardest hit and will need help to regain their livelihoods. Other essential needs include water purification tablets to prevent sickness from contaminated water, blankets and sheets and mosquito repellent.