Hurricane Ivan Toll Rises to 39

A category-5 storm bore down on Jamaica late Friday, raising its death-toll to 39 after devastating the southern Caribbean island of Grenada. Hurricane Ivan, the worst storm to hit the region in decades, had already killed at least 27 people in Grenada, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Tobago. Residents of Cuba and the southern US state of Florida are bracing for its arrival.

According to the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Ivan was heading straight for Jamaica, then Cuba and the Florida Keys, the southern string of causeway-linked islands where residents were packing up under a mandatory evacuation and heading for the mainland.

A category 3 storm when it reached Grenada, Ivan is now a Category 5, the most powerful on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with winds reaching up to 155 miles per hour. Damage from the storm in Grenada is extensive, with estimates of 90 percent of homes destroyed and 3,000 people (out of a total population of approximately 100,000) left homeless.

“We’ve got staff on the way to conduct assessments in the affected areas, and CRS will be working throughout the Caribbean with our church partners to provide immediate relief to the people who are being hurt by the heavy rainfall, high winds and flooding,” said Jed Hoffman, Latin America Regional Director for CRS (Catholic Relief Services).

“This succession of storms has left people scrambling, especially those already vulnerable due to poverty. The challenge in the coming day and months is not just meeting immediate needs but also working with local communities as they begin the process of rebuilding,” he added.

As Hurricane Ivan bears down on Jamaica, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has provided $30,000 for immediate needs in the island nation. The agency has also provided $10,000 each to the Bahamas and Grenada for emergency relief, and preparations are underway for providing humanitarian relief in Cuba, where the storm is expected by the weekend.

CRS says immediate needs include food, water, medicines, as well as materials for shelter.