The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is launching an emergency appeal to assist thousands of people on the Caribbean island of Grenada, where Hurricane Ivan has left a trail of death and destruction. Official figures put the number of dead at 17 and casualties at around 150. The Red Cross says these figures are likely to rise.
The International Red Cross Federation is asking for nearly $1.4 million. It says this is only a preliminary appeal to get emergency relief supplies on the ground quickly.
Red Cross Operations Chief, Ian Logan, says a much larger appeal will follow once the details of the needs are known.
"So, this is very much preliminary figures that we are working on," said Mr. Logan. "We are talking of 10,000 beneficiaries, about 2,000 families. And, these numbers will allow us to immediately mobilize and start our pipeline going. We do not suggest by any means that this is where it is going to stop."
Ivan, which is now pounding the island of Jamaca, is an extremely dangerous Category 5 hurricane, packing winds of more than 200 kilometers an hour. It is the strongest hurricane to hit the region in 10 years.
Mr. Logan says about 90 percent of Grenada's population of 95,000 has been directly affected by the Hurricane. He says most of the country's homes have been damaged and around 60,000 people are homeless. Of these, only 5,000 to 8,000 people are accommodated in shelters. He says the island is without water or electricity and thousands of people are in desperate need of food, clean water and shelter.
The Red Cross Official says putting a relief operation in motion is proving difficult. This is because communications have broken down, the transportation system is bad and most of the country's infrastructure has been damaged. Another big problem, he says, is that so much of the population has been affected by the Hurricane.
"The people that we would normally be working with, they themselves, of course, have their own personal problems because they are victims of the damage," he said. "So, putting together the necessary relief structure with volunteers and stuff like that is going to be an additional challenge because so many of the people that we would use are themselves affected."
Besides Grenada, Mr. Logan says Red Cross International and regional teams already are in Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic. He says the agency is coordinating disaster relief efforts with all these governments and other humanitarian agencies.