Bahamas + 2 more

Caribbean: Hurricane Wilma Emergency Appeal No. 05EA024

Attachments

The Federation's mission is to improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity. It is theworld's largest humanitarian organization and its millions of volunteers are active in over 181 countries.

In Brief

THIS EMERGENCY APPEAL SEEKS CHF 1,918,000 (USD 1,498,000 OR EUR 1,237,000) IN CASH, KIND, OR SERVICES TO ASSIST 14,000 FAMILIES (70,000 BENEFICIARIES) FOR 6 MONTHS

CHF 220,000 (USD 170,276 or EUR 142,497) has been allocated from the Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to begin relief operations in response to the hurricane. Unearmarked funds to reimburse the DREF are encouraged.

The situation

Hurricane Wilma, the 12th hurricane and 21st named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, battered Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula , Cuba, the state of Florida in the United States, and the Bahamas between 20 and 24 October, causing widespread destruction. Wilma first formed as a tropical depression on 15 October in the southeast of Jamaica. The storm brought heavy rains and flooding to the Cayman Islands, Haiti, Honduras and Jamaica as it moved towards Mexico. The category four storm first came ashore on the Yucatan Peninsula on Friday, 21 October, bringing winds of up to 225 km/h (140 mph). The slow moving storm remained over the area for two days, killing at least six people. The somewhat weakened storm then moved back out into the Gulf of Mexico, heading towards Florida. The storm regained strength over the warm waters of the Caribbean, lashing Cuba with its outer rain bands, before slamming into Florida as a category three storm. By Monday afternoon, the hurricane had moved out into the Atlantic Ocean, causing heavy rains and flooding in the Bahamas. The hurricane is now heading north through the Atlantic Ocean and is not expected to make landfall again. In total, at least 25 people were killed during Wilma's march across the Caribbean: 11 in Haiti, 1 in Jamaica, 6 in Mexico, 6 in Florida and 1 in the Bahamas.

Hurricane Wilma has virtually decimated the Mexican resort town of Cancun and the island of Cozumel, destroying hotels and homes and littering the streets with debris. It is estimated that approximately 60 percent of the 80,000 residents of Cozumel have been affected. Cancun's airport was shut down on Friday and tens of thousands of tourists not able to leave were evacuated from hotels along the coast to shelters. Shelter conditions are reported to be deteriorating as there is no electricity and little food and water. Prior to the hurricane, Mexican officials had declared a state of emergency in 18 municipalities in the state of Yucatan and 5 municipalities in the state of Quintana Roo. With this measure, the Revolving Natural Disasters Fund (FONDEN) was activated for the immediate relief of the affected population in both states. Emergency teams are just now beginning to reach the affected areas, but access is difficult due to flooding and debris in the roads. The security situation in the area is also unstable as there have been reports of looting and rioting. Mexican security forces are in the area to restore order.

Although Cuba was spared a direct hit as the storm stayed north of the country on its way towards Florida, Wilma lashed the capital city of Havana on Sunday with 138 km/h (86 mph) winds, bringing heavy rains and flooding. Flood waters of up to six feet were reported in some parts of the city. Authorities had previously cut off electricity in the city to prevent ele ctrical accidents, leaving the city's 2 million residents without power. Storm surges forced the evacuation of the town of Santa Fe, south of Havana. Almost 800,000 people were evacuated from high risk areas and the provinces of Pinar del Rio, Habana, Guantanamo, Santiago, Granma and Holguin, as well as the city of Havana, are on alert. Although most of the people evacuated are staying with family members, 71,000 people are in 1,325 emergency shelters that have been opened in the country. According to preliminary damage reports, approximately 5,000 homes have been damaged, primarily as a result of sea surges and flooding. The government has also opened 755 food distribution centres to serve the affected population. The most affected provinces are Granma, Santiago, Guantanamo, Camaguey, Cienfuegos, Pinar del Rio and Sancti Spiritus, primarily in coastal communities. No deaths have been reported as a result of Hurricane Wilma in Cuba.

Wilma battered Florida for about six hours on Monday, causing at least six deaths and widespread flooding and damage. The storm made landfall in the early morning as a powerful category 3 hurricane. As Wilma moved across Florida, it was downgraded to a category 2 storm. By just after noon, the storm's centre was back over the Atlantic, where it regained strength to category 3 status. Although there were fears that many people had ignored the evacuation orders issued for much of southern Florida, more than 33,000 people were reportedly staying in shelters.

At least 3.2 million people were left without electricity. Some 3,000 National Guardsmen have been mobilized to respond to the hurricane, and another 3,000 have been placed on alert. Wilma was a category 3 hurricane when it struck the islands of the Bahamas on 24 October, with maximum sustained winds of 120 miles per hour, moderate rains but with a storm surge of about 10-15 feet. At least one person, a child, has died in the floods. Although it was forecasted that the Central and Northern islands would be affected, namely North Andros, Bimini, Berry Islands, Abaco, New Providence and Grand Bahama, it was Grand Bahama and Bimini which received the brunt of the hurricane, with Abaco, New Providence and Berry Islands receiving minor damages mostly to trees and utility poles. There has been large scale flooding as a result of sea surges, which has washed away a number of homes, and it is estimated that some 800 people are currently staying in shelters. The island of Grand Bahamas suffered the most serious damages; the population of Grand Bahama is 47,000 and more than 7,000 persons have been affected. Furthermore, Grand Bahama has the largest number of vulnerable people who had not fully recovered from hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in September 2004. The communities of Eight Mile Rock, Hepburn Town, Hunters, Martin Town and Pinder's Point have suffered major destruction to homes and utilities due to a sea surge of approximately 15 to 20 ft. More than 1,000 persons have been evacuated to shelters in Freeport. Electricity and telephone services have been disrupted in most of Grand Bahama. The island of Bimini, which has a population of 1,717, suffered significant damages to homes, trees and utility poles due to heavy rains and sea surge. Most of the residents who had moved to shelters have now retuned to their homes

Prior to hitting Mexico, rains associated with Wilma caused flooding in Belize, the Cayman Islands, Haiti, Honduras and Jamaica. The situation in these countries is now largely under control.

For further information specifically related to this operation please contact:

In the Bahamas: Marina Glinton, Director General, Bahamas Red Cross Society, Nassau; email redcross@bahamas.net.bs, phone (1 242) 323-7370, fax (1 242) 323-7404

In Cuba: Dr. Luis Foyo Ceballos, Executive President, Cuban Red Cross, Havana; email crsn@infoed.sld.cu, phone (53) 7-228-272, fax (53) 7-228-272

In Mexico: Antonio Fernandez Arena, Director General, Mexican Red Cross, Mexico City; email dirgral@cruzrojamexicana.org, phone (5255) 1084-4510/4511, fax (5255) 1084-4514

In Panama: Alexandre Claudon, Disaster Management Delegate, Pan American Disaster Response Unit, Panama City; email alexandre.claudon@ifrc.org, phone (507) 316-1001, fax (507) 316-1082

In Panama: Nelson Castaño, Head of Pan American Disaster Response Unit, Panama City; email nelson.castano@ifrc.org, phone (507) 316-1001, fax (507) 316-1082

In Panama, Gilberto Guevara, Head, Panama Regional Delegation, e-mail gilberto.guevara@ifrc.org, phone (507) 317 13 00; fax (507) 317 13 04

In Geneva: Luis Luna, Federation Regional Officer, Americas Department, Geneva; email luis.luna@ifrc.org, phone (41 22) 730-4274, fax (41 22) 733-0395

All International Federation assistance seeks to adhere to the Code of Conduct and is committed to the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response in delivering assistance to the most vulnerable. For support to or for further information concerning Federation programmes or operations in this or other countries, or for a full description of the national society profile, please access the Federation's website at http://www.ifrc.org For longer-term programmes, please refer to the Federation's Annual Appeal.

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