Majority of homes damaged in St. Kitts

BY CHRIS TURNER BAPTIST PRESS | ST. CHRISTOPHER, Leeward Islands | October 16, 1998


ST. CHRISTOPHER, Leeward Islands -- Oliver Bourne crouched in an inner

hall of his house for two hours along with his family waiting for Hurricane

Georges to push by. It seemed like an eternity.

"There was so much flying debris," Bourne said. "All you could hear was

the wind and things hitting the side of the building." Four hours later,

the sun revealed the storm damage. More than 12,500 homes -- 85 percent off

all houses on the island -- were destroyed or damaged.

The extensive damage across the Caribbean created an immediate need for

volunteers and monetary donations to help people rebuild their devastated

lives, said a Southern Baptist disaster relief expert.

"Hurricane Hugo (1989) and Hurricane Luis (1995) came through here and

neither did this much damage," Bourne said. "Luis was three days and didn't

do the damage Georges did in an hour and a half."

Georges cut a path through the Leeward Islands causing heavy damage to

St. Christopher (St. Kitts), Antigua and Saba. Kitts lost more than 50

percent of its 1998 sugar cane crop. Almost half the churches on the island

were destroyed and 80 percent of the hospital was blown away.

"These people are going to have a real challenge rebuilding," said Eddie

Pettit, a disaster damage assessor who works for the South Carolina Baptist

Convention.

"They've lost more than 25 percent of the available resources for

rebuilding. When you're talking about 12,500 homes that need repair, you're

talking about a large-scale task." Pettit arrived on the scene just

days after the hurricane hit, assessing how Southern Baptists can best

respond to help people recover.

"We can respond immediately with water purifiers and with feeding

programs, but one of our strengths is construction. A lot of these people

won't have the means to rebuild, so we will come in and help them get their

lives back together."

Pettit said there was an immediate need for teams to stretch plastic

across damaged roofs. Afternoon rain showers continue to cause property

damage where interiors are still exposed.

"This is a critical area," said Peter Jenkins, director for damage

assessment on St. Kitts. "Many of the areas hardest hit are very poor where

the people don't have insurance. Many have lost everything. They have just

been devastated."


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