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Ayinde
Ayinde
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« on: September 11, 2004, 12:59:01 PM »

By FRANCIS JOSEPH in GRENADA

In my long career as a journalist I have never covered such a heart breaking assignment as the scene that greeted me Thursday in Grenada, which was hit by Hurricane Ivan on Tuesday. Here in St George's and across this devastated island, the people everywhere have a dazed look in their eyes as they see the total destruction of their homes and business places, and see phone and electricity lines dangling in their once orderly streets. They have no food, no water, no electricity, no communication with the outside world. Cable and Wireless is down, so is ATT and Digicel, and night time brings total darkness with its own horrors. There are only nine telephones working in the whole island, two of these are at the Grenada Grand hotel where guests and media are huddled together in one area as the hotel suffered severe structural damage. In all of St George's there was only one small parlour selling snacks. I have no idea what food the ordinary man on the street is eating, but to give you an idea of the enormity of the situation, shortly after our arrival on Thursday by Coast Guard boat from Trinidad, I paid US$20 for a hotdog and a glass of juice. Yes, you read that right US$20!

But the greatest worry is keeping escaped prisoners and looters at bay. Soldiers had to use tear gas on Thursday night on a gang of looters who broke into the shopping plaza at Grand Anse beach. Looters have not only been stealing food but appliances and anything they could get their hands on, disregarding the dusk to dawn curfew. Grenadian police, helpless in many respects, are getting assistance from the Regional Security Service under Lt Singh, who is co-ordinating efforts by troops from Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and other islands but there is a limit to what they can do. Looters are being roughed up by police as an alternative to arrest since there is no place to secure offenders, either at police stations or the jail, which was largely destroyed. When Ivan hit on Tuesday, the damage to the prison opened the gates for prisoners to escape. Most of them have been recaptured and are now contained jam-packed in a small area of the prison which is still standing. Everything is still shut down though efforts were being made to reopen the National Commercial Bank by Monday.

Security is a major problem in a situation that is really very, very bad, and one can imagine where every night total darkness surrounds you and you have to hold on for dear life to your few possessions as looters are everywhere. Yesterday, a crew of carpenters, technicians, builders and electricians were flown in from Trinidad to help the Grenadians try to bring some semblance of order to the chaos. Most of the islanders remain in a state of shock, seemingly unable to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. While the airport runway has been cleared, the control tower is still down and only small planes and helicopters are getting in during the daylight hours trying to bring in urgently needed supplies. To avoid collisions the pilots  have to depend on instructions from Piarco Airport which has responsibility for the airspace between Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada. Up to yesterday we had no idea how those who died, the figure varies between 18 and 24, are being buried. Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell expects the number of casualties to rise as the search continues for missing people and for bodies that may lie under the rubble of buildings which crumbled like packs of cards. The main hospital was severely damaged and the injured are being treated by medical personnel, including some from the British warship, HMS Richmond which arrived in Grenada in the wake of Ivan.

There is no email, no internet and what's left of the airport is filled with people trying to leave. Lumber and boiled water have been brought in by the MV Scout, a private boat leased at US$5,000 a day by the Trinidad and Tobago Government. Extensively damaged are the Parliament building which lost its roof, the governor's residence, the prime minister's official residence, police headquarters and 90 percent of all houses on the island, schools, government buildings, homes large and small. Livestock, crops and the ground provisions which are produced for export to Trinidad and Tobago have all been destroyed. Prime Minister Mitchell has left the official residence and returned to his private home which has also suffered damage. Yesterday, the lawn of his house was covered with his clothes which had been put out to dry in the sun. Grenada is a disaster on this September day and the people of this spice island need all the help they can get to put their lives together again. It will be a tough time for them all.

http://www.newsday.co.tt/stories.php?article_id=20371
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