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Samaritan's Purse brings relief after Hurricanes Irma and Maria slam the Caribbean

Samaritan’s Purse has teams across the Caribbean, serving hurricane victims in the name of Jesus

This September, Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated several islands in the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, Barbuda and Dominica. Samaritan’s Purse responded by sending disaster assistance response team (DART) members and emergency supplies. While initially we were providing relief to five island nations, we are now focusing on serving Puerto Rico, Dominica and Barbuda, bringing heavy-duty shelter plastic, hygiene kits, and generators via Samaritan’s Purse aircraft. The city of San Juan, Puerto Rico will continue to be the logistics hub for our multinational relief response across the Caribbean.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria left death and destruction in its wake as they churned through the Caribbean this September. Irma also swamped Florida, while Maria did not do any significant damage in the United States.

“Hurricane Irma leveled islands in the Caribbean and devastated the Florida coast,” said Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse. “We are taking critically needed supplies to storm survivors and coming alongside affected families. We want to meet their physical needs while showing them the love of Christ. Please pray for all those affected by this horrific storm.”

“We are taking critically needed supplies to storm survivors and coming alongside affected families.”
—Franklin Graham

Samaritan’s Purse started its response to Hurricane Irma on the island of St. Martin, where the storm caused widespread destruction.

Samaritan's Purse is on the ground in St. Martin distributing tarps, blankets, and hygiene kits among thousands of families.

Samaritan’s Purse is distributing tarps, blankets, and hygiene kits among thousands of families across the Caribbean.

Our DC-8 cargo plane continues to make multiple trips to that island to deliver relief supplies and disaster assistance response teams. Through these airlifts—the first of which occurred on Sept. 8—we’ve brought in water purification units, heavy-duty shelter plastic, family hygiene kits, and blankets for thousands of families. We have also distributed almost 500 tons of food to help residents as local supplies dwindle and our aircraft have flown more than 300 missions. Distributions and relief work continue.

During our initial response in the first few months, Samaritan’s Purse focused on making safe drinking water accessible and have helped bring more than 1.6 million litres of safe water to hurricane victims. Two 3,700-litre tanks have been installed at the water treatment locations. In Barbuda, plans are to set up a new cistern-fed water system that will quadruple our current water output. We continue to assist with emergency shelter programs and repairs. Our emergency response construction team members are building relationships with homeowners, and the list of homeowners requesting assistance is growing. Almost 400 homes on Barbuda have been served–cleaned, tarped, provided with generators–by Samaritan’s Purse.

We now have about 17 Samaritan’s Purse Canada personnel on the ground across several islands.

Irma’s Impact

One of the most powerful Atlantic Ocean storms in recorded history, Irma made its first landfall Sept. 6, lashing the eastern Leeward Islands as a Category 5 storm. Its nearly 300-kph winds decimated Antigua and obliterated 60 to 90 percent of the buildings on the island of Barbuda. Gaston Browne, the prime minister of Barbuda, said the island is “literally rubble.”

After ripping up St. Martin, heavy rains and a powerful storm surge lashed Puerto Rico and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Throughout the Caribbean, Irma caused more than three dozen deaths according to news reports.

On Sunday, Florida felt Irma’s fury, including 200-kph winds, heavy rains, and major storm surge. This is the first time that two Category 4 storms (Harvey and Irma) have made U.S. landfall in the same year.

Less than two weeks later, Hurricane Maria decimated Dominica on September 19 as a Category 5 storm, killing at least one person and then ravaging Puerto Rico on September 20.

Samaritan’s Purse was in position to respond to Hurricane Maria very quickly, as we had already been sending aircraft and disaster relief team members from the U.S. and Canada to deliver supplies and relief expertise in response to Hurricane Irma.

These palm trees, with a steel bar driven right through one of them and corrugated steel wrapped around all of them, are a shocking reminder of just how powerful the winds of Hurricane Irma were last month as they carved a destructive swath through the Caribbean.

These palm trees, with a steel bar driven right through one of them and corrugated steel wrapped around all of them, are a shocking reminder of just how powerful the winds of Hurricane Irma were last month as they carved a destructive swath through the Caribbean.

“In Turks and Caicos, for example, our goal was to preempt the arrival of hurricane Maria with as many relief materials as possible to supply churches with everything they need to serve their people,” said Rich Peavey, Response Manager with the Samaritan’s Purse Caribbean hurricane response.

In addition to our national and international response to Hurricane Irma, we continue to serve Hurricane Harvey victims in Texas in the Name of Jesus Christ.

So far, our DC-8 has made about 30 flights to Caribbean islands to help save lives and reduce suffering on the islands.

More than 63,000 tarps for shelter, about 12,000 hygiene kits, almost 17,000 blankets, more than 600 generators, safe water and food have been distributed benefiting thousands of households since the hurricanes hit the Caribbean as Category 5 hurricanes.

In Dominica, Samaritan’s Purse medical staff served 1,465 hours and have performed/assisted with 77 surgeries for patients at Princess Margaret Hospital.

The devastation on St. Martin was extensive. Our team members report that houses upon houses were badly damaged. Roofs were blown off. Irma’s Category-5 winds lifted cars and flung them into trees.

The devastation on St. Martin was extensive. Our team members report that houses upon houses were badly damaged. Roofs were blown off. Irma’s Category-5 winds lifted cars and flung them into trees.

“We are blessed with a great team and the resources to respond quickly when disaster arrives on the doorsteps of neighbor wherever they be around the world,” says David Bock, Samaritan’s Purse Canada’s response manager. “Our disaster response is an expression of our faith and demonstration of our love for people when their needs are greatest.”

Please pray for the people of the Caribbean and our team members as they continue to distribute emergency relief and help begin the process of rebuilding and cleaning up in the aftermath.

Note: This article was originally published Oct. 31, 2017 and updated Jan. 16, 2018.