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Secretary-General’s statement on Hurricane Irma

7 September 2017
Statement by: Secretary-General Patricia Scotland

The Commonwealth family will stand by those affected by “apocalyptic” Hurricane Irma, Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said in statement today.

Described as the most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever, the category five storm had sustained winds of 185 miles per hour for a record 24 hours, leaving a trail of destruction in Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis and in British Overseas Territories - Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico, St Martin and Saint Barthélemy have also been affected, while the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos are bracing themselves for its arrival.

In her statement, Secretary-General Scotland expressed her deep concern for the people and governments affected by Hurricane Irma, and called on Commonwealth governments to aid the relief effort.

She said, “This month many school children should be beginning a new year of education, but in some parts of the Caribbean today they are waking up to unprecedented destruction. My heart goes out to all those affected. I know that there are people who have just lost their homes and all their possessions, and families who are mourning the death of loved ones, including a two-year-old child. I also know there are leaders who are lamenting the fact that more than 90 per cent of their buildings and infrastructure have been destroyed and their economies obliterated.

“In other parts of the region there are countries who are still bracing themselves for this unstoppable force of nature.”

Secretary-General Scotland continued, “My fervent hope is that longstanding Commonwealth programmes to reduce vulnerabilities and build social and economic resilience will contribute to immediate emergency response and longer term recovery. This includes our work to assist with financial flows, debt management and access to funds to tackle climate change.

“The Commonwealth carries forward vital work to advance integration and cooperation within the Caribbean region and to strengthen links with the wider international connection so that the needs of vulnerable nations and communities such as those affected by Hurricane Irma are addressed.

“We can be sure that the damage caused by the onslaught of hurricanes, cyclones, floods and mudslides to infrastructure, lives and livelihoods will be met by the people of small island and developing states courageously and with robust resourcefulness.

“I know that Commonwealth solidarity together with support through other international networks, will ensure that local resolve and fortitude are matched by swift mobilisation of desperately needed immediate assistance and the provision of other resources for rehabilitation and rebuilding.”