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SVG donates cash, food to islands affected by Irma


St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has already contributed US$100,000 in cash and over 2,000 pounds of food and water to Caribbean countries affected by Hurricane Irma.

And, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said while we have already made contributions, we are far from finished, and later this week, a construction barge will leave these shores with over 1,800 tonnes of food,

water, building and other materials.

Last week, Irma, a category five hurricane, wreaked havoc on a number of Caribbean countries, including the British Virgin Islands (Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyke), Antigua & Barbuda, Anguilla and Cuba and SVG immediately moved to assist.

Last Sunday, four Windward Islands Airways International (WINAIR) planes took off from the Argyle International Airport (AIA) with food and water and landed safely in St Maarten.

Gonsalves said that he has spoken to director of Airports Corsel Robertson about giving WINAIR permission to land here, if they want to bring Vincentians who live in the hurricane ravaged countries home.

“Solidarity is not a question of giving your extras; solidarity is about giving of the little that you have; that is the real solidarity,” the Prime Minister told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday, noting that the US$100,000 donated by this country was split evenly and donated to the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and Antigua & Barbuda.

Gonsalves noted that the hurricane ravaged islands are also being helped within the context of certain Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) arrangements.

“The Central Water and Sewerage Authority (CWSA) is going to supply tanks of water, while Minister of Transport and Works Julian Francis and Agriculture Minister Saboto Caesar will coordinate the donation and export effort.

“Julian will do logistics and Saboto will look at the type of agricultural produce we can send, because a lot of his constituents are up there (BVI),” revealed Gonsalves.

The Prime Minister noted that he has informed the authorities in the countries affected that the SVG can accommodate students writing Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) exams, once they have family connections here.

“Premier [of the BVI Orlando] Smith said that he would work on that. These students cannot be away from school for too long; we did that for Grenada in 2004,” said Gonsalves, who noted that one of the students did so well, she received the Sir Sydney Gun Munro university scholarship.

Gonsalves is also trying to get the government of Venezuela to assist, while he has also spoken to Mitsuhiko Okada, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to SVG.

Three local police officers have gone to the BVI as part of a Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) team and this country has made available other personnel.

The Prime Minister said if the barge is not filled on Thursday, he will ask St Lucia to help fill it.

Local companies that have assisted so far include Coreas Hazells Limited, CK Greaves and Company Limited and Massy Stores.

“What I got from Greaves is what was sent up to St Maarten and Greaves said that they will not be giving us a bill and Massy said they will be giving us a big discount,” revealed the Prime Minister, who added that the Good Heart Foundation, a local charitable organization, held a fund-raiser last Saturday and will hold another one this Thursday.

He is urging persons to make donations of canned foods and water, as there are about 2,000 Vincentians in the BVI, which is just under 10 per cent of the population and about 500 persons in Anguilla are Vincentians.