Turks and Caicos Islands + 1 more

Red Cross responds to Hurricane Ike

The British Red Cross is appealing for urgent funds as Hurricane Ike has struck the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean.

Hurricane Ike hit the islands on Sunday 7 September as a category 4 hurricane, exactly 48 years to the day since the last major storm, Hurricane Donna, wrought havoc on the region.

The British overseas territory had already been battered by five days of storms after Hurricane Hanna hit the islands at category 1 strength, making the 12,000 people on the islands who are living in flimsy shack-like housing extremely vulnerable.

Buildings are in a severely weakened state and 750 people have already lost their homes. The British Red Cross is running emergency shelters and providing islanders with food, clothing and tarpaulins but supplies are running low.

At risk

Before Ike struck, Clive Evans, British Red Cross Overseas Branch manager who is in Providenciales, said: "These islands have not seen storms like this for 48 years so many buildings in the poorer communities are unlikely to be able to withstand a category 3 or 4 hurricane.

"At the moment, we are working on emergency plans to deal with an estimated 2,000 families who we consider to be most at risk. Our staff and volunteers have been working hard to prepare for Ike but the situation is extremely worrying."

The British Red Cross helped evacuate 260 Chinese construction workers ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Ike. The builders had been marooned on Middle Caicos, an uninhabited island, during Tropical Storm Hanna.

Haiti hurricanes

The Red Cross is also supporting urgent relief efforts in Haiti. Heavy rains in the wake of Hurricanes Gustav and Hanna have further exacerbated the flooding, which destroyed the bridge linking the devastated region of Gonaives to St Marc on Haiti's mainland.

Some roads are now passable and the Red Cross has been able to distribute aid and carry out initial assessments in the area, but any further rains in the wake of Hurricane Ike could seriously affect access to the region.

The Red Cross predicts that up to 650,000 people could be affected. The British Red Cross has immediately released =A325,000 to support the emergency relief efforts but much more is desperately needed.

Hurricane Gustav and Hurricane Hanna

Parts of Haiti remain submerged and at least 500 people have died as a result of the combined impacts of Hurricane Gustav, which slammed into Haiti on 26 August, and Tropical Storm Hanna, which hit on 1 September. Many people were stranded on rooftops as they scrambled to avoid rising floodwaters and risks from flooding and mudslides remain high.

Pete Garratt, relief manager at the British Red Cross, said: "The needs in Haiti are massive and we are only now beginning to see the full extent of the damage. The Red Cross is currently providing life-saving food, clothing and shelter to 7,000 affected families in Haiti, Jamaica and Cuba.

"However the numbers of families to be assisted by the Red Cross is forecast to increase substantially as Red Cross emergency teams reach the northern parts of Haiti, hit hard by Tropical Storm Hanna."

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched an appeal for =A31.92 million to help provide support to 10,000 Haitian families over the next six months, and a team of disaster response specialists has now joined Red Cross personnel on the ground in Haiti.