7 September 2017
The British Red Cross has launched an appeal for those affected by Hurricane Irma, the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean.
The category five hurricane has the potential to be the most destructive and deadly storm in the Caribbean for many years.
It made landfall on the Leeward Islands in the north-east Caribbean on Wednesday and is still moving.
It is predicted to rip through Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba before hitting Florida.
Red Cross teams in Anguilla and Barbuda are reporting extensive damage. Tropical Storm Jose is also gathering strength and set to follow in wake of Irma.
Red Cross volunteers in every country in the hurricane’s path have been helping communities to prepare, from gathering relief items to sending first aiders to shelters. They stand ready to support in the aftermath, too.
This includes the British Red Cross’ Overseas Branches Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Given the strength and scale of the storm, and early reports of damage, it is clear there will be humanitarian needs.
Assessment teams will be going out in affected areas early today to get a clearer understanding of what those needs are. The Red Cross knows from past experiences of hurricanes in the region that likely concerns will be water, health and shelter.
Ben Webster, head of emergencies at the British Red Cross, said: “Given the scale of the anticipated emergency, any response will likely be highly complex. Some of the islands that are expected to be hit are isolated, and lack basic infrastructure.
“The impact on those communities could be catastrophic. Red Cross volunteers have been making sure communities are braced for this storm, and we’re ready for a massive, multi-country relief and recovery effort.
“Many of the Red Cross branches are already in response mode as they have been dealing with floods in the weeks before Hurricane Irma. Now they must prepare for another emergency – and another storm is following behind.
“British Red Cross has emergency aid ready to go from the regional warehouse, and our aid workers are on standby to support the response as needed, as part of the wider Red Cross Movement operation.”