Secretary of State Colin Powell is back in Washington after a three-day Hemispheric trip capped by visit Wednesday to the storm-ravaged Caribbean island of Grenada. He pledged further U.S. assistance to Caribbean states recovering from last month's hurricanes.
Grenada was, proportionally the Caribbean state hardest-hit by the storms, and Mr. Powell was given an aerial tour of the damage as his aircraft arrived from Brazil.
Hurricane Ivan swept across Grenada a month ago, killing about 40 people, damaging or destroying 90 percent of the island's homes, and wrecking tourist resorts and nutmeg groves that are the island's economic livelihood.
Mr. Powell met with Grenada's Prime Minister Keith Mitchell, and told a news conference the Bush administration is asking Congress for another $50 million in Caribbean relief aid, tied to a larger supplemental request for U.S. domestic hurricane assistance.
That will raise the total amount of aid sought or already allocated to the Caribbean for the storms to more than $110 million. The largest-single portion is to go to Haiti, but nearly $5 million is earmarked for Grenada. Mr. Powell said the damage in Grenada will take years to repair.
"What makes this situation so difficult for Grenada is that not only was their infrastructure hit, schools, housing, roads, power systems, but their means of production and the economic base of the country, the agricultural sector, the tourist sector, the medical college, all of them were severely damaged and hurt by this hurricane. So there is an urgent need to reconstruct the economy, as well as rebuilding houses and rebuilding schools," he said.
Mr. Powell said he had a special association with Grenada, having visited the island with the then-President Ronald Reagan in 1984, a year after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled a military-installed Marxist government.
Prime Minister Mitchell, the current chairman of the CARICOM regional grouping, stood arm-in-arm with Mr. Powell during their press appearance.
He said the visit provided a badly-needed morale "uplift" for Grenadians - many of whom are still in temporary shelter and lacking electricity and other services four weeks after the hurricane.
"After the devastation of Ivan, we have gone through quite a lot, in every respect," he said. "But as I have indicated to our friends who have visited us over the last few weeks, the commitments for financial and other forms of material support have been highly appreciated. But what has been appreciated even more so is the personal touch of the presence of those persons, because it has provided a morale lift to a people who have been extremely battered."
Caribbean recovery efforts had been a major issue in Mr. Powell's talks Tuesday in Brazil, which commands U.N. peacekeeping forces in Haiti.
The largely Latin American troops have been doing double duty as relief workers following the disastrous hurricane-related floods that struck the country in mid-September.