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Plea for donations after Irma

  • A house slides into the Atlantic Ocean off Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma (Photograph by Gary Lloyd McCullough/The Florida Times-Union via AP)

Bermuda residents were called on yesterday to dig deep to help people in countries devastated by Hurricane Irma.

The Bermuda Red Cross and the Salvation Army are looking for cash donations to help with relief efforts in the Caribbean and the United States.

Bermuda Red Cross executive director Ann Spencer-Arscott said: “We can certainly appreciate what they have gone through.”

She added: “We have to remember how fortunate we are — there are people around the world who are less fortunate.

“If we can rally round and help our sister islands, we can at least make them feel that they are being supported and that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

“The more people can do in the way of making a donation, the better.”

She added that $7,550 has been raised and that funds would go towards purchasing supplies for affected areas.

David Burt, the Premier, pledged that the Bermuda Government would match donations up to $25,000.

Hurricane Irma, the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade, devastated parts of the Caribbean last week before barrelling into Florida over the weekend.

Media reports said that up to 40 died after the Category 5 hurricane made landfall in Barbuda and then tore a devastating path across Caribbean countries and territories.

Ms Spencer-Arscott explained that the charity is looking only for cash at the moment because the storage and manpower to send items is not available.

She said volunteers are focused on clearing the affected areas and ensuring people are safe before they start to rebuild.

But she added that the Bermuda Red Cross is also looking at how it could work with the Royal Bermuda Regiment troops who are set to be sent to the region.

Ms Spencer-Arscott added: “The biggest problem right now is communication.”

She said the British Red Cross had set up a website for family links, where people can register family as missing and check back for updates.

The Salvation Army has also mobilised relief efforts, with the USA Southern Territory co-ordinating “unprecedented disaster responses on numerous fronts”.

All emergency disaster assets across the USA and Canada have been activated, and almost a third of a million meals have already been provided to survivors of Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

But divisional commander Major Frank Pittman warned that resources will now have to cover a much wider area as the focus turns to Florida.

He said: “When I look at the US and the Caribbean islands from a Bermuda perspective, we see them as our neighbours.

“We being an island and them being islands, I think we can associate with them and feel their pain and their agony at this time, probably because we’ve been there — but thankfully not to that extent.

Major Pittman added: “We urge everyone to support and help our brothers and sisters from other countries that are struggling.”

He said that at the moment the Salvation Army needed cash donations as sending supplies was impossible because of transport problems.

But he added that the Salvation Army hoped to send members from Bermuda to help in the affected areas “as time progresses”.

A release from the Salvation Army’s international headquarters said the organisation is working with the government of Antigua and Barbuda to provide emergency food supplies to those who have fled Barbuda.

The island of about 2,000 people was left “barely inhabitable”, with 95 per cent of buildings damaged.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne said reconstruction would cost $100 million.

A state of emergency has been declared for the British Virgin Islands and widespread damage was also reported in Anguilla, the US Virgin Islands, St Martin and St Barthelemy, Turks and Caicos and Puerto Rico.

The UK has faced criticism that it has been slower to respond to Irma than other countries with interests in the region.

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday upped the country’s aid package for the region to £32 million.

Defence minister Michael Fallon said that hundreds of troops, engineers and other additional resources would also be provided.

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Mounts Bay is already in the area, helping the people of the BVI by delivering supplies and medical support.

And Royal Navy flagship HMS Ocean was yesterday diverted from the Mediterranean to Gibraltar to pick up tons of supplies before heading to the Caribbean.

Haiti and the Dominican Republic were also battered by the storm although there was not as much damage as was feared.

Officials in Cuba said there had been “significant damage” and at least ten people had died.

After battering the Caribbean, Irma hit Florida as a Category 4 hurricane on Sunday before weakening to a tropical storm.

International media reports linked at least four deaths to the storm. Florida suffered widespread flooding and six million homes in the state were without electricity yesterday afternoon.

In the islands of the Florida Keys, officials have warned of a “humanitarian crisis”.

How to help

• Bermuda Red Cross donations can be made to Bank of N.T. Butterfield account 20-006-060-663859-200, by calling 236-8253 or by stopping by the Bermuda Red Cross offices at 9 Berry Hill Road.

To access the Family Links website, where people can register missing persons and survivors can say they are safe and well, visit familylinks.icrc.org/hurricane-irma/en/pages/home.aspx

• Donations to the Salvation Army can be made online at sar.my/amappeal

• The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has also set up a hotline for anyone concerned about friends and relatives affected by Hurricane Irma. That hotline number is +44(0) 2070-080000.