Jamaicans Prepare Relief, Expect Worst From Gilbert With AM-Hurricane Gilbert, Bjt
The Associated Press
Sep. 15, 1988
Undated (AP) _ Jamaican-Americans rallied quickly to their hurricane-devastated homeland's aid, and hundreds of doctors and nurses and tons of supplies Wednesday waited for clearance to fly to the Caribbean nation.
In the New York area, home to the nation's largest Jamaican community, a Brooklyn health clinic began accepting food, clothing and bedding for shipment to Jamaica, and several local Caribbean groups set up relief funds.
Dozens of the 50,000 to 60,000 Jamaicans living in South Florida flocked to the Jamaican Consulate in Miami, waiting nervously for word of conditions back home. Others staffed makeshift relief supply centers, gathering tons of food, medicine, clothing, and building materials.
Air Jamaica as well as U.S. carriers Midway Airlines and Eastern Airlines promised to fly supplies to Jamaica for free. But word of the wreckage Hurricane Gilbert left in its aftermath made islanders doubt any relief effort would bring their country back.
''Kingston was beautiful. Now they can't even recognize it,'' said Vincent Clive Kirkland, waiting for the chance to bring food and medicine to his family in St. Mary, Jamaica.
''I almost want to laugh,'' Kirkland said. ''It's something you can't believe but you just have to accept it. It don't make sense to cry.''
Prime Minister Edward Seaga told his nation Gilbert was the island's worst natural disaster ever.
The Jamaican community of South Florida, which puts on reggae music festivals and has its own clubs and radio shows, often is overshadowed by larger Latin American communities here. But the community is closely knit and maintains strong interest in its homeland, Evans said.
''They did not wait for the storm to hit before they began organizing themselves and when they met with consul general they already had things under way. The response has been marvelous. It's always so where our country is concerned,'' said Lancelot Evans, the consulate's information officer.
Evans added that the Cuban community also is contributing to the relief effort, and Spanish-language radio stations broadcast appeals for help.
A Telex from the Jamaican government said blankets, sheets, cots, tents, medical supplies, water, and nonperishable items are badly needed.
Joanne Gonzalez, a spokeswoman in Fort Lauderdale for the Jamaican United Relief Assocation, said hundreds of doctors and nurses were ready to travel to Jamaica as soon as the government requested medical assistance.
Church World Service, the relief division of the National Council of Churches, said in a statement that it had already provided $55,000, and was asking member churches to raise an additional $100,000.
The Agency for International Development said the federal government was sending relief supplies totaling $396,000 by military aircraft from Panama. The supplies include 360 rolls of plastic sheeting, 200 tents, 3,966 water jugs, 18 water tanks, 10 chain saw kits and 9,600 cotton blankets.
Partners of the Americas, a group of 60 countries including the United States and nations in Latin America and the Caribbean announced it had set up a relief fund to help the people of Jamaica and Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.
''Jamaica is not like America. People do not have insurance. It will all be their expense,'' Kirkland said. ''If there's any help the United States can give, we're going to need it.''
The Caribbean Action Lobby, an organization encompassing numerous groups of Caribbean immigrants, began drawing up plans for a ''major fund-raising event'' - as yet unspecified, said its New York regional president, Dr. Waldaba Stewart.
A hurricane relief task force from New York's Jamaican community, estimated at 300,000 to 600,000 people and concentrated in Brooklyn, intends to meet Friday with Gov. Mario Cuomo and Saturday with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Stewart said.
Later, he said, members of the task force intend to go to Jamaica ''to make sure that the relief is properly distributed ... and to make sure it is not used for the political advantage of one side or the other.''