While the extent of the damage from Hurricane Irma is still unclear efforts are already underway in St Lucia to provide assistance to the countries affected by the potentially catastrophic hurricane.
The St Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association (SLHTA) and the St Lucia Chamber of Commerce say they are mobilizing their resources to assist fellow OECS islands.
The matter was discussed at a meeting on Tuesday between SLHTA, the Chamber of Commerce, the OECS Secretariat and the Office of the Prime Minister.
A dangerous category 5 Hurricane Irma slammed into the Leeward Islands overnight with maximum sustained winds of approximately 185mph. The eye of the hurricane passed over Barbuda.
OECS Director General Dr. Didicus Jules says the OECS is working closely with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) to coordinate the response efforts.
“So we are taking all of our information centrally from CDEMA. We are coordinating efforts with them and on a parallel track, because of the magnitude of this event, we are looking to mobilize supplementary resources over and beyond what CMEDA normally does,” Jules said.
He said meetings have been held with the diplomatic community in St Lucia and seek additional support for CDEMA.
Dr Jules said “we have an additional responsibility to ensure that the OECS member states are as well taken care of as possible.”
The St Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association says it’s “rallying together” to provide support to the wider private sector and the government of St Lucia to help islands affected by the hurricane, according to SLHTA CEO, Noorani Azeez.
“We certainly are moving from a position of empathy. Having experienced the full brunt of storms in the past, we know all too well the suffering that these systems can bring with them. And so we are banding together to get a better sense of what our room inventory is gonna be like in the event that we need to provide accommodation for evacuees. We are looking at the resources that are available under our tourism enhancement fund should the need arise to accumulate, or put finances towards the cause. And generally we stand with our sister private sector agencies and the government of St Lucia to provide whatever is needed to ease the suffering that might accompany the passage of these storms” Azeez said.
The President of the St Lucia Chamber of Commerce, Martin Dorville called on the local business community to provide support to those countries affected by the hurricane.
“It looks like we are going to need support to provide some assistance to our sister countries and our OECS people and possibly beyond. So I would like to make that plea loud and clear. And through the Executive Director of the Chamber, you will be getting some request for support and as we become clearer on what is going to be required we’re going to make those specific requests,” Dorville said.
As of 8 a.m. Wednesday the monster Category 5 storm’s eye wall was butting up against Anguilla with sustained winds of 185 mph and even higher gusts