8 September 2008

Nature’s equilibrium

Posted in Comment tagged , , at 11:53 pm by lilithhope

Havana harbour

While grateful that hurricane Ike caused no fatalities on the Turks and Caicos, I know that such thanks is counterbalanced by the fact that it claimed 61 lives in Haiti and is currently threatening thousands more in Cuba.

Unfortnately, as is so often the case, one’s celebration coexists with another’s despair.


7 September 2008

Hurricane Ike over my home

Posted in Comment tagged , , , at 12:20 pm by lilithhope

Click image to zoom in [Image of initial wind radii]


The archipelago of islands outlined in red just north of the eye of the hurricane is the Turks and Caicos Islands (NOTE: at the time of writing, that was the case. but the map has been moving with the hurricane, following it on its course. Therefore, the eye of the hurricane is no longer near the T+C islands, which lie due north of Haiti)

My dad is hiding under our house, in the little ‘bunker’ i helped him construct in 2004 in preparation for hurricane Frances, the last storm to seriously threaten the Turks and Caicos Islands. Now, hurricane Ike is hovering overhead with its 200km plus winds gashing away at the lowlying Caribbean islands, with my friends and family coweing beheath.

My ingrate brother, after throwing one of his regular temper tantrums in reaction to my father’s dogmatism, literally abandoned dad, and took off to the local TV station, his workplace, leaving my 57 year-old pop to finish boarding up the glass windows and doors of the house by himself. So much for family solidarity in times of crisis.

Fortunately, the mobile fones are still working. Talking to dad, i can hear the winds roarng outside. When i express concern for him (the house is on a remote end of the island, Providenciales), he shrugs it off, and, in his characteristic Aussie accent, states that he’s “more worried about the bloody dogs”. Three out of his four beloved mongrels have gone to hide in the bushes, along with his two cats. His only company is Smiley, an old, deaf and half-blind mutt, who he has always cared for faultlessly. Smiley is obviously more loyal to him than his own son.

But neither my father nor brother will be the worst off in the wake of this feat of Mother Nature. Like the images being beamed across the planet of Haiti’s recent catastrophy that resulted from tropical storm Hanna last week, those who bear the full brunt of Ike will not be my family and friends, those expats who long ago claimed the pristine British Overseas terriroty as their home. No; they have the money, and therefore soild enough homes to withstand the storm. If worst comes to worst, their losses will be material.

Those who are bound to suffer the most will be the Haitian refugees, those who come over on slooth boats thinking that they are being brought to America. Yet they arrive on Provo, and are given no protection, no status of asylum seekers or refugees. Recently, the Turks and Caicos government has disallowed work permits for Haitians. They are seen as a black plague, infiltrating the precarious colonial paradise. They will be the ones to suffer the most, because even though they fled their home nation in order to seek better lives elsewhere, they will suffer the same fate as their compatriots back in Haiti: the corrugated iron and plywood houses of Cite du Soleil were reproduced in Five Cays, and will not withstand hrash winds, rains and flooding. The slight change in geography offered no change in livelihood, except perhas for the worst: in Haiti, at least they were at home. On Provo, they are cast as outsiders by Turks Islanders and expats alike. And it is them who stand at the receiving end of the worst that Ike can dish out.

Obviously, the Hatian refugees are not the only ones at risk. Anyone in low-lying areas like Blue Hills, the Bight, and Leeward will be at serious risk. Out of those three areas, Leeward is by far the most well off, and most of its residents will have flocked either off island or to a friend’s place on high ground. Once again, as with so many national disasters, from the 2004 Tsunami to the 2008 cyclone in Myanmar, the victims will be decided according to economics. And although human suffering cannot be accurately measured in numbers, it is simple numbers and figures in terms of wealth that dictate who will suffer more or less.

And as in any colonial and even postcolonial society, economy, and in this context the extent of tragedy, has a colour. I expect that those who will be least effected, in terms of non-material losses, will be predominantly white, while more substantial human losses will be sustined by those of darker skin. The main exception to this will be local government officials, who have been funnelling away millions of the islands’ wealth for years and years, and who have megalomaniac homes that attest to that fact.

Ironically, Prime Minister Michael Missick, who is currently being investigated by a British commission under accusations of corruption, had designated today as a “national day of prayer and fasting” in order to request that God help him in his judicial ordeal. Indeed, there will be many people praying and fasting today and in the days to come, but for very different reasons that Missick hoped.In his concrete bunker by the water pump, my dad suggested that God is probably punishing the whole country for putting up with Missick’s lies, bribery and greed for so long.

At that, I wondered about the extent to which the ongoing colonial legacy there will also be ‘punished’. Not tht i believe in divine retribution or anything, nor do i wish for any ill to befall any of my friends and family, the vast majority of which fit into that legacy. I just constantly wonder about the repercussions of privilege, or, reciprocally, the extent to which privilege can alleviate repercussions.

Ofcourse, aside from abstract intellectual contemplations, I am also hoping for the safety of my loved ones.