Staff and volunteers in British Red Cross Overseas Branches are trained to help their communities prepare for, survive and recover from disasters like hurricanes, floods and even an active volcano. Here's how we’ve helped when disaster strikes.
Hurricanes in the Caribbean are increasing in strength and becoming more frequent. Hurricane season is usually June to November but changing climate patterns mean these dates can change. The Turks and Caicos Islands were hit by two hurricanes – Hanna and Ike – in one week in 2008. The British Red Cross sent two disaster management experts to the island before Hurricane Ike hit.
During and immediately after the hurricane they worked with local volunteers to evacuate buildings, run shelters, organise a central feeding station, take people to hospital and give out sandbags, clothing and tarpaulins. Later they organised flights of relief supplies and worked with community organisations to identify the most vulnerable people to receive food and essential non-food items. The Red Cross also launched the Caribbean Hurricane Appeal to fund the emergency response.
While hurricanes make international news, floods are more common and cause equally catastrophic damage. Floods could follow any storm or hurricane, creating problems in low-lying areas of the islands. In July 2008, when Hurricane Dolly sped through the Caribbean, volunteers in the Cayman Islands handed out 125 sandbags to help residents in low-lying areas protect their homes from flooding. They also helped an elderly couple whose house had already been flooded clear the dirty water from their home.
In 1995, what was thought to be a dormant volcano on the small island of Montserrat erupted and caused catastrophic damage, killing 19 people and changing the lives of the island’s residents forever. All of Montserrat’s people were evacuated to the north of the island and more than half were then evacuated to other countries, including the UK. The capital, Plymouth, was completely wiped out and Montserrat’s homes, infrastructure and economy all had to be rebuilt elsewhere on the island.
Local Red Cross volunteers have been supporting people since the volcano first erupted. They helped the government run long-term shelters, built new housing for elderly people made homeless by the volcano and even rebuilt their own Branch office. When the dome of the volcano collapsed in July 2008, volunteers helped evacuate residents again.