Hurricane Maria strikes Caribbean Islands struggling to recover from previous storms

By September 20, 2017

Caribbean (MNN) – Hurricane Maria has billowed into a massive Category 5 storm. It already struck the island Dominica and is on track to hit the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico today. With Maria coming just on the heels of Hurricane Irma, some areas of the Caribbean will have been struck twice-over.

The damage sustained in Saint Martin following Hurricane Irma. (Photo courtesy of MAF)

John Woodberry is with Mission Aviation Fellowship, an aviation ministry partnering with emergency response organizations to bring relief to hurricane-hit areas throughout the Caribbean. Woodberry reports, “A week ago when Hurricane Irma hit a lot of the Caribbean Islands, there were urgent needs in a lot of those places. MAF is supporting the work of Samaritan’s Purse. They responded rapidly to some of the main-hit islands. They set up a base out of Puerto Rico and have been using DC-3s and other cargo planes to bring in tarps, food, water filtration, [and] hygiene kits.”

As the needs have become apparent from St. Martin to Antigua and Barbuda, MAF has scaled up their response. In the case of natural disasters, rubble and wreckage can make it difficult for relief efforts to reach some areas from the ground. For victims in these hard-to-reach areas, aviation services are vital for delivering aid and medical evacuations.

“Saint Martin is an island that’s been really devastated.”

Woodberry shares, “I was serving with the Samaritan’s Purse team there in Saint Martin and we were basically living with tarps as walls in what used to be probably a five-star resort that was devastated and basically sleeping outside.”

Tarps are an especially critical need since many homes had the roofs ripped off, even if the walls stayed in place. In Barbuda alone, 80 percent of all homes were destroyed.

(Photo courtesy of MAF)

MAF has sent a Cessna 206 aircraft up to Antigua and last weekend conducted a survey flight to Barbuda. But now, Woodberry says, “Because of Maria, the aircrafts were moved south and tomorrow we hope to bring the aircraft back up to Antigua to serve relief needs in Barbuda.”

The series of hurricanes and tropical storms battering the islands in the Caribbean is playing out like a whack-a-mole – local governments and aid agencies are racing to keep up with the devastation that pops up in one hard-hit area before the next one strikes.

“There’s the rapid response relief phase where people have just lost [everything], they don’t have drinkable water, they don’t have a roof over their heads, they need medical [care], they need other types of care. That’s the phase we’re in right now.”

MAF is working through the local church where they can and, as Woodberry points out, everything MAF does is motivated by the love of Christ.

“I think the Gospel always comes into play because there’s both the physical part and the spiritual part and God’s working in all of our hearts whether we feel we’re doing okay or whether we’ve just lost a lot of things that we held onto in life. So as we faithfully serve, God is engaged, He’s a part of the picture, and God is working through Christians responding.”

Compassion fatigue can be tempting in a society that’s heard a lot about hurricanes and storms this season. But it’s more important than ever for the Body of Christ to persist in support for these disaster relief efforts that provide aid to the afflicted.

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Woodberry also adds, “I would just ask for prayer…that God would work through those who are responding and in the lives of those who are suffering, that they’ll get their needs met both physically and that they’ll connect wherever they are with God.”

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