Hurricane Ivan tore through the Caribbean in September 2004. Its first and hardest hit target was Grenada. But just four months later, the recovery is well underway

  • Devastation at the National Cricket Stadium in St. George's. Photograph by Roberta Parkin
  • On the road to Grand Etang. Photograph by Roberta Parkin
  • Damaged boats, one month after Ivan. Photograph by Roberta Parkin
  • Ruined house at Bathway Beach, near the north-eastern tip of Grenada. Photograph by Roberta Parkin

What happens next when you wake up with your house in shambles around you?
You stand under the blue sky in the golden sunshine, and say, “Thank God
I’m alive”. Such was the response of the people of Grenada, who are picking
up the pieces and starting to repair the damage done by Hurricane Ivan.

“Bigger and better,” says Beverly Renwick, manager of the real estate firm
Alleyne Aguilar & Altman. She lost her house to one of the “more than
50 tornadoes” that struck in the wake of the hurricane. Most structures
older than twenty years had no chance. It sent her back home to her parents,
where she has provided necessary support. “Stress has been hardest on children
and the elderly,” she says. “In a single week in the period after Ivan, five
of Daddy’s friends died.”

Nevertheless, Renwick is optimistic that Grenada has the chance to rebuild
itself into a better place. In her field, real estate, the emphasis has
shifted to property management — maintenance and reconstruction. A few owners
may want to sell “as is”, but most, she says, are holding on to their property.
The immediate problem is that labour for construction is now stretched to
the limit.

But not everyone is so optimistic. The severity of Ivan’s physical, social,
and political impact has been documented by a multi-disciplinary team from
the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), whose report has been
published on the website of the government of Grenada, Field work
conducted from 19 to 24 September documents a disaster of almost unimaginable
proportions. It’s estimated that full recovery will take ten or 15 years.

The state of Grenada, which includes the islands of Carriacou
and Petit Martinique to the north, has a population of just over 102,000,
living in an area of 344 square kilometres. Ninety per cent of the buildings
on the island were damaged by Ivan; over 10,000 are beyond repair. Over 18,000
people rendered homeless had to seek refuge in ad hoc shelters, since many
official shelters were destroyed. Distribution systems for electricity were
so severely damaged they took months to restore, with the help of dedicated
crews from other islands. Reservoirs were choked and water lines destroyed.

The OECS report describes some of the worst hit sites. The village of Apres
Toute was removed from its hillside, with only a pile of wood and zinc sheets
to indicate its previous location. The villages of Darbeau, Vendome, and
Grand Anse were swept away. Soubise, on the sea, took the brunt of the winds
and sea surges. “Hurricane-force winds of 115 miles per hour tore off roofs
belonging to persons in low and high income houses, without distinction.”

On the afternoon of Monday 6 September, 2004, as Ivan approached the Windward
Islands, Grenada was placed under hurricane watch. If the storm stayed on
its path, it was predicted that it would hit Grenada. At 1 p.m. on Tuesday
7 September, the National Hurricane Centre in Miami was recording sustained
winds of 120 miles per hour, rising to a maximum of 145 miles per hour for
a brief period just after 4 p.m. Overnight, the wind speeds dropped to between
40 and 60 miles per hour, but a number of tornadoes arrived in the wake
of the storm. Fortunately, relatively little rain fell, which was a factor
in reducing damage due to flooding and landslides.

Grenada’s natural environment was devastated. What was green before was
now brown, appearing “burnt.” The OECS report estimates that 91 percent of
the island’s forests were stripped bare, and 72 watersheds damaged. The long-term
impact on wildlife remains to be seen.

The nutmeg industry, accounting for the livelihood of over 30,000
people, and supplying one third of the world’s nutmeg, was decimated. Of
half a million nutmeg trees, producing 12 million pounds of nutmeg annually,
just 48,000 trees were left standing. Nutmeg accounts for about half of
Grenada’s export earnings. The immediate task of the Grenada Co-operative
Nutmeg Association (GCNA) was to remove fallen tree stock, clear lands,
and prepare for replanting. And Ivan’s effect on 8,000 acres of cocoa was
to put 7,500 active farmers out of a means to earn an income until the estates
recover. The effects on Grenada’s agriculture will be fully felt in 2005,
without a cocoa or nutmeg crop, and no banana crop until the last quarter
of the year.

Infrastructure at the port and airport were also damaged. Government and
commercial buildings were all affected. The residences of the prime minister
and governor-general even lost their roofs. “The passage of Ivan, terrible
as it has been, should be viewed as an opportunity . . . to put systems
in place to assist in reducing overall impacts of such an event when they
do occur,” advises the OECS report. One of the earliest decisions was to
write and enforce a new building code.

But if Hurricane Ivan was a disaster, especially to those living on the margins
of subsistence, it was also the catalyst for an outpouring of care and “gayap”
(co-operative work) from the Caribbean community. Trinidad and Tobago, 90
miles to the south, sent a contingent of 250 soldiers to assist with cleaning
up, repairs, and security, as well as food, water, electricity generators,
doctors, engineers, and hundreds of tons of construction material. The Trinidad
and Tobago government, effective 1 July, 2004, established a grant facility
of up to US$25 million per month, to be used for poverty eradication in Caricom
nations. Grenada will be able to draw down on these funds. This is in addition
to donations from ordinary citizens, companies, and groups who have raised
funds via telethons and concerts.

Other Caribbean states offered to house prisoners, take children into secondary
schools, pay public servants’ salaries for certain periods, or send in personnel.
The Venezuelan government sent food, medicine, and construction material,
as well as a contingent of soldiers to help repair schools and prisons.
All over the Caribbean, and in the West Indian communities in North America
and Europe, funds for Grenada have been raised and pledged.

Much more is still needed. Long-term food security is a pressing problem
for a country that has lost, for the time being, a large portion of its
natural resources. Unemployment has become a crisis; the current rate is
over 90 per cent. Villages that were completely destroyed need to be rebuilt
with appropriate town planning, to ensure sound basic structures. While the
agricultural sector recovers, workers need to be retrained for jobs in construction,
light manufacturing, and tourism.

In early November, Prime Minister Keith Mitchell launched a
bulletin to let Grenadians know the government was prepared to provide tools
and equipment to farmers and fishermen, funding for tourism projects, low
cost housing systems, counselling for the traumatised, and food for the needy.
And teams of engineers, agriculturists, and economists are at work devising
projects to restore housing, industry, and agri-business.

Initial assessments right after the hurricane anticipated that most of Grenada’s
productive sectors would be disabled for at least a year. The outlook for
tourism was grim. Most hotels expected to lose the winter season. But individuals
and companies have been working feverishly to restart their businesses,
and in some instances recovery has been far quicker than expected.

Carol Patrice of the Grenada Hotel and Tourism Association reports that
many hotels have already re-opened for business. Don’t bypass Grenada, she
says. “Travel and tourism are as important as agriculture, fishing, and manufacturing,
because they bring in revenue, and provide jobs to numerous Grenadians.”
Visitors can check the websites
for up-to-date information on hotels and restaurants open for business,
and to make bookings.

And, though most of the island’s marinas were damaged by the storm, rapid
repair work means that Grenada will be ready for business during the 2005
cruising season. At Spice Island Marine Services, located on the True Blue
side of Prickly Bay, cranes from Trinidad had to be used to pull out the
boats that sank to the bottom. But by January 2005, the marina was looking
more or less the way it did before Ivan. “Our restaurant, The Big Fish, was
open right through, even without a roof,” says manager Justin Evans.

Grenada Marina has already managed to finish repairs. Martin’s Marina in
Mt Hartman Bay did not sustain much damage, but took the opportunity to
start a full refurbishment, which was completed in December. The Grenada
Yacht Club suffered extensive damage, but will be ready for 2005’s early
races; as is the True Blue Hotel & Marina. And plans for a major new
marina at Prickly Bay are still on stream.

At 12 degrees north, towards the southern limit of the hurricane
belt, Grenada is positioned to provide outhaul or put-in facilities in the
hurricane season. One hurricane in 50 years — the island was last struck
by Hurricane Janet in 1955 — is a pretty low ratio. The current cruising
season will bring many boats to the south Caribbean. “Many will come to
Grenada, even if only for the curiosity factor.” Evans said. “They will
cruise down and check us out, and they will also come on the way to Trinidad.”

Some Grenadians fear that, with the island still partially in shambles,
visitors who do come this year may be turned off. The situation is precarious,
and the plight of a people battered but not broken by circumstance begs for
understanding and compassion.

One of Grenada’s major medium-term goals is to be able to host its scheduled
matches in the 2007 Cricket World Cup. The new national stadium was hard
hit, but the government is determined to rebuild it, along with whatever
infrastructure is required to accommodate players and fans in two years’

Most Grenadians are determined to turn a positive face to the world. With
the effort of all her citizens, and the help of all her friends in the Caribbean
and elsewhere, Grenada will rise again.

Open for business

As of January 2005, the following hotels were scheduled to be back in operation,
according to the Grenada Hotel and Tourism Association. For up-to-date information,

• Allamanda Beach Resort, 473-409-2218
• Almost Paradise Guest House, 473-442-0608
• Azzura Castle, 473-535-0191/2
• Bailey’s Inn, 473-403-8600
• Barry’s Country Resort, 473-442-0330
• Beach Inn
• Bel Air Plantation, 473-444-6305
• Blue Horizons Garden Resort, 473-444-4316
• Blue Orchid Hotel, 473-444-0999
• Cabier Ocean Lodge, 473-444-6013
• Calabash Hotel, 473-444-4334
• Cinnamon Hill Resort, 473-444-4301
• Coral Cove Cottages, 473-442-4422
• Epping Forrest Plantation House
• Flamboyant Hotel, 473-444-4247
• Fox Inn, 473-444-4123
• Gem Holiday Beach Resort, 473-444-2288
• Grenada Grand Beach Resort 473-444-4371
• Grand View Inn, 473-444-4984
• Lance Aux Epines Cottages, 473-444-4565
• Mariposa Beach Resort, 473-444-3171
• Mitchell’s Guest House, 473-440-2803
• Monmot Hotel, 473-439-3408
• Petite Bacaye Cottage Hotel, 473-443-2902
• Recoben Apartments
• Roydon’s Guest House, 473-457-3854
• Sam’s Inn, 473-442-7313
• Siesta Hotel, 473-409-2218 (opening March 2005)
• St Ann’s Guest House, 473-440-2717
• Sunset View Beach House
• The Lodge Guest House
• Tropicana Inn, 473-440-1586
• True Blue Bay Resort, 473-443-8783
• Victoria Hotel, 473-444-9367
• Villa Apartments
• Wavecrest Holiday Apartments, 473-444-4116
• Windward Sands Inn, 473-533-6040