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September 30, 1998

With recovery efforts underway in the Caribbean countries ravaged by Hurricane Georges last week, the Organization of American States (OAS) announced today that it would come up with more aid for the Caribbean member states that suffered.

Assistant Secretary General Ambassador Christopher R. Thomas made the announcement during a meeting of the hemispheric Permanent Council. The OAS had already approved an amount for emergency aid, but ambassador Thomas said that the organization's Inter-American Emergency Aid Fund (FONDEM) committee is to meet soon to decide on the specifics of additional aid "in the context of its means."

The OAS official was speaking after Ambassador Lionel Hurst of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominican Republic Ambassador Flavio Darío Espinal, Ambassador Osbert Liburd of St. Kitts and Nevis, and the interim permanent representative of Haiti, Guy Pierre, addressed the Council on the hurricane damage in their countries. Thanking the international community for assistance given so far, the diplomats detailed the ravages of Hurricane Georges, amid warning by some that "global warming" was playing a bigger role in natural disasters such as hurricanes.

Ambassador Hurst said apart from the two deaths reported, some 15 per cent of the business places had been damaged. "One half of hotels--the economic engine which propels our development--are now closed," added the ambassador who observed that, compared to the damage inflicted on the Dominican Republic, Haiti, St. Kitts and Nevis, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the southern US cities, "our fate seems mild."

Meanwhile, Canada's permanent representative to the OAS, Ambassador Peter M. Boehm, told the Permanent Council that the Canadian Minister for International Cooperation, Diane Marleau, had announced a Can$600,000 aid package last Friday.

The assistance is to be given through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). It will be distributed through the Red Cross, Pan American Health Organization, and the Canadian diplomatic missions in Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Barbados (for St. Kitts and Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda).

Argentina's ambassador, Julio César Araoz, meanwhile stated that, in expressing its solidarity, his government's helpwould be in the form of construction specialists and materials for Antigua and Barbuda, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti and St. Kitts and Nevis.

A number of other delegations also referred to aid their governments would offer to the Caribbean disaster relief effort. Trinidad and Tobago's ambassador, Michael Arneaud, indicated that his country's Electricity Commission had despatched a crew to help restore electrical power to Antigua and Barbuda and that the national airline, BWIA was taking the crew there.

The item on the impact of the hurricane on the countries was introduced on the Permanent Council's agenda at the initiative of the Antigua and Barbuda envoy.

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