Call for prayer as Hurricane Beryl leaves a wake of destruction in the Caribbean

3 July 2024

Hurricane Beryl. Photo credit: NASA

Please join us in praying for the island communities devastated by Hurricane Beryl, a category 4 hurricane, which is sweeping through the Caribbean. Hurricane Beryl passed between St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada and directly hit Carriacou at 222 km/hr. The winds, heavy rains, and dangerous storms have caused devastating loss and damage to homes, public buildings, and sea vessels. The hurricane then directly struck Union Island where ‘almost the whole island is homeless’, with 90% of buildings damaged or destroyed. Still in its projected path are Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, with Haiti and the Dominican Republic also issuing warnings and advisories.

While dealing with the impact of the hurricane in his own island home of Grenada, the Anglican Alliance’s Caribbean Facilitator, Clifton Nedd, has shared his extreme concern for the islands directly in Beryl’s path.  “Hurricane Beryl caused catastrophic damage, especially on the island of Carriacou [and since then on Union Island]. It is heartbreaking to see the images and videos that are emerging. There will be a fuller assessment in daylight hours. The destruction appears to be total, and the impacts are physical, material and psychological.”

At least 10 people are reported to have lost their lives and many thousands have been made homeless. People from vulnerable groups, who tend to live in more precarious circumstances, will have been particularly affected. Carriacou (one of the three islands that make up Grenada) has two Anglican parishes and Bishop’s College secondary school, with at least one church losing its roof. There are also reports of damage to other Anglican buildings in the Diocese of the Winward Islands, including the Anglican Cathedral in St Vincent, where the roof was ripped off. Power outages due to the hurricane have impacted communications so a comprehensive picture will only emerge in the coming days.

Amidst this trauma, communities are showing remarkable resilience. In a powerful video from Carriacou the morning after the hurricane, an islander said: “What you’ve got to do is just think about tomorrow and rebuilding…  When things like this happen, everybody gets together and they always do good. So I expect we will band together and we’ll get past it.”

Another islander said: “We pray that many people throughout this world will come to our rescue and our aid. Especially we need food, materials, tarpaulin. We need many things to get us back on our feet. We will be all right when we’re back on our feet, but it’s just a starting point.”

According to UN OCHA, Beryl has further intensified to a category 5 hurricane and is forecasted to make landfall in Jamaica today (3 July) with some potential impact on the southern coasts of Haiti and the Cayman Islands. Hurricane Beryl strengthened from a tropical depression to a major hurricane in the Atlantic in just 42 hours, a phenomenon only recorded six times before. It has also come unusually early in the hurricane season. Scientists say that climate breakdown caused by human activity has increased the intensity and frequency of destructive tropical storms, due to warming oceans.

As Hurricane Beryl so painfully illustrates, the brunt of climate change impacts is being born by vulnerable communities, including small-island developing states. The prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines has decried the lack of political will in rich nations. In an interview on Monday he said, “I am hopeful that what is happening – and we are quite early in the hurricane season – will alert them to our vulnerabilities… and encourage them to honour the commitments they have made on a range of issues, from the Paris Accord to the current time.”

Please join us in praying for the affected communities and the Church as it responds to their needs. With experience of the terrible Hurricane Ivan, Clifton reports that the most immediate needs will be dry foodstuff, clean water and materials for temporary shelter as most houses have had their roofs blown away.

The Anglican Alliance is already connecting across the Communion for a rapid response fund to support immediate needs. We will then work collaboratively with the Province of the West Indies and agencies around the Communion as the Church plans a longer-term recovery response.