July 22nd, 2024

Canadians in Grenada and Montreal rally to help after hurricane Beryl devastation

By Joe Bongiorno, The Canadian Press on July 4, 2024.

Canadians living in Grenada and Canadians of Grenadian origin here in Canada are doing what they can to provide relief after the Island nation was struck with a powerful hurricane earlier this week. Palm trees wilt after being uprooted by Hurricane Beryl in St. Patrick, Grenada, Tuesday, July 2, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Haron Forteau

MONTREAL – Canadians Lynn Kaak and her husband have been doing what they can to provide relief to the Caribbean island nation of Grenada, after hurricane Beryl left part of the country “absolutely hammered.”

As a volunteer warden with the Canadian High Commission in Barbados, which offers consular assistance to Canadians in Grenada, Kaak has been kept busy purchasing bottled water for storm victims, a precious resource she says is running out in the country. On Thursday, she was collecting coffee bags from a nearby roaster – items that will help locals store their belongings.

The Grenadian islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique have been ravaged, Kaak said, with some of her friends’ homes destroyed or badly damaged, including the home of a fellow Canadian. Beryl hit the country earlier this week as a Category 4 hurricane – the strongest storm to form in the Atlantic this early in the hurricane season.

“They’re still trying to clear the roads to get through,” said Kaak, who first sailed to Grenada in 2010 with her husband, and relocated from Toronto to the island nation eight years later. She described Carriacou as “absolutely hammered.”

Downgraded to a Category 2 storm Thursday as it headed toward Mexico’s Caribbean coast, Beryl has claimed at least nine lives, including three in Grenada, and destroyed 95 per cent of homes on a pair of islands in neighbouring St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“It is just heartbreaking right now,” Kaak said.

“After all of these storms one of the toughest things is communications. Yesterday they finally got cellphone coverage up in Carriacou again. However, now the big problem is how the hell do you charge your cellphone with no power?”

In Montreal, Gemma Raeburn-Baynes said Beryl tore the roof off the furniture business in Grenada belonging to her uncle and cousin, but it spared their home.

“The place where (they) live in Saint Patrick, it got hit with the Hurricane Beryl much worse than people living in the south of the island,” said Raeburn-Baynes, who is president of Playmas Montreal, an organization that promotes Caribbean culture, and works for Spice Island Cultural Festival, an annual celebration of Grenadian culture in Montreal.

“The communities have come out and (are) trying to do some clean up. Grenadians are very resilient, so I expect that they will survive this,” she said.

In 1955, when she was four years old, a hurricane took the lives of 14 family members – all sheltering under one roof.

Although Raeburn-Baynes said she is heartbroken by the damage Beryl has caused, she finds cause for optimism in Canada’s Grenadian community rallying to raise funds for those affected by the hurricane. Spice Island Cultural Festival, scheduled to kick off next week, will provide an even greater platform to raise money, she said.

Meanwhile, in Mexico, locals are bracing for Beryl’s arrival.

For the past five years Canadian Anne Glennie Ruttan has lived in a house on the Yucatan coast, which is in the path of the storm. Despite feeling safe, she said she still prepared her property for what is to come.

“We’re taking this one seriously,” Glennie Ruttan said, adding that she stocked up on drinking water, tied down the patio furniture and emptied the roof drains.

In Playa del Carmen, most businesses were closed Thursday and some were boarding up windows as tourists jogged by and some locals walked their dogs under sunny skies. In Tulum, Mexico’s navy patrolled the streets telling tourists in Spanish and English to prepare for the storm’s arrival. Everything was scheduled to shut down by midday.

The head of Mexico’s civil defence agency, Laura Velázquez, said Thursday that Beryl is expected to be a Category 1 hurricane when it hits a relatively unpopulated stretch of Mexico’s Caribbean coast south of Tulum early Friday.

On X, International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said Wednesday the Canadian government will be providing $1 million in critical aid to storm victims.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 4, 2024.

– With files from The Associated Press

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