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Credit: A/NASA / NOAA GOES Project

Secretary-General expresses deep concern over powerful hurricane in the Caribbean

1 October 2016

Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, has today expressed deep concern over the news that a “very powerful” category 4 hurricane is headed to Jamaica.

With 155 mph winds, Hurricane Matthew briefly escalated to a category 5 - the top hurricane classification.

It is the strongest Atlantic hurricane since Felix in 2007, which affected 160,000 people, and caused at least 133 deaths and millions of US dollars worth of damage.

Hurricane Matthew developed over Barbados on Wednesday 28 September and caused stormy conditions in Saint Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Jamaica as they brace themselves for what could be a very dangerous storm with winds strong enough to threaten life and destroy buildings,” said Secretary-General Scotland.

“We understand that heavy rains have already caused at least one death on the island of St Vincent and the Grenadines. We express our deepest sympathy to the family of the 16-year-old boy who was crushed by a boulder.

“We stand ready to support the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, as they work to minimise the impact on countries in the region.

"This extreme weather incident is yet another tragic example of the vulnerability our small states face.

"The innate vulnerability such climate shocks represent to our small states is of urgent concern. That's why Commonwealth finance ministers will this week be meeting in Washington DC to grapple with the better responses we need to develop. It's also why we will be arguing that the World Bank and International Monetary Fund need to be looking at developing a vulnerability index rather than just looking at GDP to assess what states need.

"The tragic reality is that the number and scale of these climatic shocks are becoming more fast and furious. As the gaps shorten between incidents, so the capacity to respond will weaken if countries do not have enough recovery time.

"The Commonwealth Secretariat is committed to continuing its support to climate vulnerable small island states, through initiatives such as the Climate Finance Access Hub, which will help countries access pledged funds to reduce the impact of climate change through mitigation and adaptation.

"In the meantime, we stand with our fellow Commonwealth citizens as they hope for the best and prepare for the worst."