“Half the island is underwater” - Norfolk families stranded in aftermath of Hurricane Irma as UNICEF appeal for aid
PUBLISHED: 09:03 09 September 2017 | UPDATED: 09:34 09 September 2017
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Terrified Norfolk families have survived as islands across the Caribbean were viciously battered by Hurricane Irma.
The Category Five storm left a trail of destruction, with early estimates suggesting that 74,000 people - including 20,000 children - have been affected in these islands.
The wreckage has been widespread, with homes flattened, roads flooded and infrastructure wiped out.
As rescue teams make their way to the stricken islands, UNICEF has issued an urgent appeal for help.
Kerry Hood, 39, from Little Melton, was stranded in Turks and Caicos with her three children aged five, 10 and 16 after they were unable to find a flight home.
She said the moment the eye of the storm passed overhead was “horrific”.
“It’s relentless - just keeps coming and growing in strength,” she said.
“All we can hear are things flying around hitting the roof, the roar of the wind getting louder. Out the window I can see 6ft panels of wood being tossed around like rag dolls.”
After the storm passed, she said she felt “guilty” for worrying about flights when “the locals have lost so much”.
“According to our hotel manager half the island is under water, including the airport which has had 12ft of flooding,” she said.
“The island hospital lost its roof and many have lost homes.”
On Thursday, newlywed honeymooners Mariah and Michael Brick, from Great Plumstead, saw the storm pass over their hotel in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.
Mariah’s mother, Andrea Crooks, said they are without food or money.
“They are taking it day by day,” she said. “There are no planes out - not even an airport. There is a lot of flooding and everything is boarded up.
“They are safe and that is the main thing.”
Rescue teams have been deployed to the region, including a mechanical engineer from Norfolk who landed in Barbados on Friday.
Garry Wonnacott is part of the first international rescue team to respond, with Serve Ons International Response Team combining their 20 years of disaster rescue expertise with Team Rubicon UKs ability to harness a broader volunteering base.
Pete Old, Serve Ons Director, said: “From our perspective, this is a great step forward in disaster response, seamlessly linking the rescue and recovery phase through a joint deployment.”
Appeal for aid
While tourists will be able to escape the tragic aftermath of Irma, Unicef are concerned for the welfare of more than 10.5m children who live in the countries that are likely to be exposed to the damage.
Patrick Knight, head of communication for UNICEF in the Eastern Caribbean, speaking from Barbados, said: “As the extent of the damage becomes clear, we are seeing severe levels of destruction. Our priority is to reach all those children and families in the affected communities as soon as possible.”
Editor of the EDP and Evening News, David Powles, said: “Tens of thousands of pounds have been sent across the world from EDP appeals alongside UNICEF.
“The scenes from Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean are shocking and the destruction isn’t yet finished. I would urge our readers to do as they have always done and give what they can to those left with nothing.”
To donate to the UNICEF relief effort, visit unicef.uk/edp.
A view from Anguilla
Rhonda Connor, chief education officer for UNICEF Eastern Caribbean from Anguilla, has told of the “enormous devastation” caused by the hurricane.
“Some buildings have totally collapsed. Across the whole island electricity is off completely. We have lost some of our schools. At least we’re alive. It could have been worse. It was scary, really, really scary sitting waiting for the storm.
“I don’t think there was anything else that could have been done. It was just a severe hurricane. Containers were hoisted and moved, flying through the air, lots of cars overturned or on top of each other. It was awful. The trees, what’s left of them, are just bare stems and they’re blackened as if they’ve been in a fire.
“One of the first things is to restore electricity, many people are crying out for that. We need to clear the debris and we need technical assistance. Everybody is lamenting. We are relieved to be alive but still there is a sense of hopelessness and helplessness.”