Caribbean News in Brief – February 25-10

GRIM OUTLOOK

Port-au-Prince, Haiti: President René Préval says the death toll from last month’s earthquake could reach 300,000.

At a meeting of Caribbean and Latin American leaders in Mexico, Préval said more than 200,000 bodies were collected on the streets without counting those that are still under the rubble.

The International Development Bank has estimated that the cost of rebuilding could be as high as $14 billion.

KEY SUPPORT

Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago: New opposition leader, Kamla Persaud-Bissessar, has received the backing of a key supporter of her predecessor, Basdeo Panday, clearing the way for her official appointment.

Persaud-Bissessar had required one more signature to send a letter to President George Maxwell Richards, informing him that she had the support of the majority of the 15 opposition members.

Last Saturday, Tim Gopiesingh, a former ally of Panday, said he would give Persaud-Bissessar the vote she needed.

Panday said he felt betrayed by Gopiesingh’s decision.

However, Gopiesingh said he took his cue from party members who elected Persaud-Bissessar by an overwhelming majority last month to succeed Panday.

DROUGHT RELIEF

Georgetown, Guyana: The government of Guyana is planning to spend US$12 million to deal with the present drought affecting the country.

During a meeting in the Essequibo Coast last Sunday, President Bharrat Jagdeo said farmers were experiencing severe difficulties as a result of the present situation, caused by the El Niño phenomenon.

Jagdeo said El Niño has taken a toll on crops, livestock and people’s livelihoods, with some communities having difficulties with drinking water.

Jagdeo promised that his administration would undertake costly relief efforts such as pumping and transporting water to long distances.

U.S. CRITICIZED

Havana, Cuba: Cuba has reacted angrily to a meeting between a visiting United States delegation and Cuban dissidents.

It accused the U.S. of being provocative, and of meddling in the Caribbean nation’s internal affairs.

U.S. envoys met a group of government opponents in Havana after holding talks with government officials on the problems of Cuban migration to the United States.

The official talks were partly overshadowed by a row over the arrest of an American contractor.

Correspondents say the growing rifts are threatening to derail attempts to ease tensions between the two sides.

HAZARD ALERT DROPPED

Brades, Montserrat: Montserrat’s volcano hazard alert has been dropped.

The National Disaster Preparedness and Advisory Committee (NDPRAC) said that it had reduced the hazard level from level 4 – the second highest – to level 3, easing the access to Zone B, comprised of Isles Bay, Waterworks, parts of Old Towne and lower Happy Hill.

Last December, the NDPRAC raised the hazard level to 4 after recording increased activity at the Soufriere Hills Volcano and reduced access to Zone B to one hour a day.

The latest decision was made at a NDPRAC meeting on Tuesday in which the Director of the Montserrat Volcano Observatory announced that the partial dome collapse on February 11 had significantly reduced the hazard and risk to the area.

However, residents were warned to remain alert because volcanic activity could arise again.

“Residents should maintain their properties in a state of readiness for possible evacuations,” the NDPRAC said in a statement.

 

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