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ominica’s wounds are still fresh from Tropical Storm Erika—as they were for the people of Grenada who were practically brought to their knees in 2004 by Hurricane Ivan, a category three hurricane. Before that, it was the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines who grappled with floods, landslides, and loss of lives after a low-level trough system hit the island in December 2013. The list goes back pretty far, and The UWI has been there to support when it mattered the most. Lessons from Ivan “The UWI’s more structured response to disasters started with Ivan,” Professor Wayne Hunte said of the kind of support that The UWI is now able to offer the region. According to a World Bank report, Hurricane Ivan’s financial cost to Grenada was estimated at US$900 million—more than twice that country’s GDP. History now informs us that Ivan was the most powerful hurricane to hit the Caribbean region in a decade. The threat alone triggered responses which saw the closure of schools and government buildings in Barbados, and evacuations to emergency shelters in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia. Grenada also evacuated 1,000 people to shelters. It was all they could do since the northern portion of the eye passed over the island causing damage to more than 80 percent of their buildings. Hurricane Ivan was blamed for at least 15 deaths on that island. Professor Hunte, who was tasked with coordinating The UWI’s response to the crisis in Dominica, explained that Ivan marked the beginning of a more organised response by the university. “It created a UWI disaster management network,” Professor Hunte told The Pelican. He recalled that when the clarion call went out to The UWI campuses for people who wanted to be part of the relief effort after Ivan, over 60 people signed up. The expertise of the volunteers ranged from geotechnical engineering, to psychosocial counselling and environmental management. Since Ivan, The UWI has set up a more institutional response. The Disaster Risk Reduction Centre in Jamaica is a testament to that response. THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14 –

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UWI Pelican Issue 14