Oxfam country teams and partner organisations in the Caribbean are preparing to respond to potentially severe damage from Hurricane Irma, the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history.
The category 5 hurricane has just made landfall in the Caribbean with winds up to 300 kilometres per hour, passing over Barbuda and moving north west into the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Oxfam Australia’s Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said there were grave fears for the damage Hurricane Irma could cause in the region.
“Oxfam teams in the Caribbean are concerned about the potential for deadly storm surges, destructive winds and torrential rainfall, which could cause flash flooding and landslides,” Dr Szoke said.
“Given the vulnerability of people in Haiti after the deadly earthquake in 2010, we’re really concerned about the potential devastation this huge storm could cause.”
In northern Haiti, Oxfam has a team in place in Cap Haitian that is primed to reach the most affected areas immediately after Irma hits. They will determine Oxfam’s humanitarian response.
Oxfam teams in Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba have activated their contingency plans, and are coordinating likely response efforts with partner organisations and government agencies there.
“If Hurricane Irma maintains its current intensity and path the consequences could be disastrous,” Dr Szoke said.
Oxfam teams are also closely monitoring tropical storm Jose, which is developing in the southern Caribbean and could strengthen before following a similar track to Hurricane Irma.
Oxfam has worked in the Caribbean region for over 30 years and has experienced teams ready to provide safe water and carry out sanitation and hygiene work for the most vulnerable people after an emergency strikes.
Oxfam responded to last year’s Hurricane Matthew in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba.
Donations to support Oxfam’s emergency responses can be made online.
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