New CTO Appointment
Economics of Going Green
State of Caribbean Media
Passport to Paradise
Death Sentence in 2 Years
Priest Thinks Twice
Charges & CounterCharges
Communication in Tourism
Moves to Oust Savarin
WIBC Settles with Gregory
UWP Leadership Question
Threat to State College?
Why Marpin Was Rejected
Sanford Now In Barbados
Hotels Threaten Shutdown
Urban Baron to Cross Floor
Lestrade & Stabilisation
Urban Baron Did Not Cross
PM Charles Tightens Grip
Search for New President
Tension at N.D.C.
New Independent Party?
AT & T in Dominica
Curtis Matthiew - DFP?
Sonia Williams - Indep...
SARS in Toronto, Canada
Bobby - Independent?
Casino Gambling Begins
Formal Opening of DSC
End of Douglas Dynasty?
Wage Bill Cut
DLP Want Theodore Fired
DFP Virtually Dead
PM's Fiscal Adjustment
Dr Etienne to PAHO
Relations with China?
Sam Raphael Resigns
Tour de Dominica Politics
PJ on Independence
Politics 25 Years Later
Cure For Aids Mooted
DSS Stymied by IMF
New Development at CTO
The Silent Killer
Grenada & Hurricane Ivan
Regional Tourism Security
Making Millions on Haitians
UWP Falling Apart
© Johnson JohnRose
Grenada, A Land Paralyzed by Ivan
Monday, Sep 20, 2004 - At 6:30 a.m. on Thursday morning, September 16. I left home to catch a LIAT flight to Grenada. Less than 24 hours earlier, I was at a Caricom Heads of Government meeting in Trinidad where the Grenadian representative painted a picture so grim that it made me shiver.
"It is impossible to exaggerate the problems in Grenada,” he said before breaking down. After pausing for what seems like forever, and with his voice cracking, he continued: “We just don’t know where to start.”
I would hear almost these same words later at Pointe Salines International Airport during a meeting with LIAT staff. More on the meeting later.
In what might have been a preview to the confusion in Grenada, my flight out of Barbados was scheduled to leave at 7:35 a.m. We left almost an hour later with an apology from the flight attendant: “Ladies and gentlemen we would like to apologise for the delay. You know the situation in Grenada and we are trying to get as many things into Grenada as possible and we had a slight overbooking…”
The flight, one of four daily scheduled flights which LIAT operates into the country, first stopped in St. Vincent. The captain promised that the wait would have been 15 minutes. Well over half an hour later, when we finally took off, the apology was similar to the first. The fact is lots of people have been trying to get into Grenada to take in whatever form of assistance that they could.
Before landing, we flew over St. Georges University. The university and a number of surrounding buildings seemed had escaped any damage.
'Where is the damage?', I thought. 'This country seems not as bad as I was made to believe.' But things are not always what they seem.
At the airport, which itself showed little signs of a hurricane attack, a sign over the entrance with the Grenada Coat of Arms on the left, the flag on the right read: “Welcome to Grenada.” What a welcome!
I was travelling with LIAT CEO Garry Cullen, the chairman, Jean Holder, who is also secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and Oliver Haywood, the LIAT Barbados manager who went to Grenada the day after the storm to help direct the airline’s operations. We were met by the local LIAT manager, whisked through immigrations and customs and taken to a meeting with over 30 staff in cramped office space at the airport.
The stories were heart-breaking. Staff dressed in T-shirts to go to work because they had nothing else to wear. Some had not eaten for several days because they had no food. Since the storm they had been depending on their counterparts in Barbados to feed them. One woman telegraphed that she wanted to speak but couldn’t. Later, I asked her why and she broke down.
“I just don’t know where to start,” she said, as tears flowed down her face.
“How about your home?” I asked.
“Gone,” was all she could muster as she sobbed.
“Children?” I inquired.
“So where are you staying?”
"At my mother’s.”
“What do you plan to do?” I persisted.
She shook her head in desperation, signalling that there was no hope, said no more and kept on weeping.
An hour later I drove past what was once her home. There was nothing left standing but the skeleton.
I drove around St. Georges and was horrified. Rows of utility poles suspended, almost horizontally as if held this way by invisible cables from the sky. Homes without roofs and some lay bare, naked. One government office looked like it had been razed by fire, not hit by a hurricane.
The site at the new cricket stadium was shocking. On one end of the grounds, the roof of one stand sat over the seats as if to protect them. All its supporting structures had crumbled.
LIAT’s cargo office was one of the builds to have escaped damage by the hurricane, but it was not left untouched. Looters had efficiently cut through the locks and rampaged the place. Torn, empty boxes strewn all over the floor told the story of the carnage. I was told that a supermarket not far from there that the hurricane left untouched, suffered the same fate.
On the streets, people were in a daze. The country paralysed. No one seemed to know what to do, everyone waiting to wake up from a nightmare which seems unending.
A service station which opened for the first time was protected by officers of the Regional Security System (RSS), one clutching a machine gun.
I spoke with the owner. His was among the few building left standing.
“How far do you think the wind can throw a 40-foot container?” he asked me.
Of course, I couldn’t tell.
He explained that he lived half a mile away from someone who was building, the sites separated by the sea.
“I woke up the next morning and found the 40-foot container which was at his site 25 feet from my house,” he explained with disbelief in his voice. “The hurricane threw a 40-foot metal container half a mile across the water.”
At the Spice Island Resort, one of the country’s more upscale properties, the owner, Royston Hopkin, described how the storm ripped the roof off his property.
“In fact, it took it and sailed it so far that the chandeliers did not have the time to break on the floor,” he said. The Spice Island Resort will be closed for at least a year.
I spent one day in Grenada and was able to see the damage only in the St. Georges area and the more I saw, the more I kept thinking, 'Hurricane David.'
Upon leaving, the captain took us over the country so we could see the extent of the damage. Trees with little but ribs left, a terrain scorched as if hit by one huge forest fire and below, a country so traumatized that it was unable to address its own recovery needs.
Then the plane flew into the clouds and my view of the land was gone.