Ivan In Grenada: A Survivor'sTale

Houses torn apart by the strong winds of Hurricane Ivan are seen in St. George's, Grenada, Sept. 9, 2004. AP

As Hurricane Ivan heads toward the United States, the island nation of Grenada struggles to pick up the pieces Ivan left behind.

The storm hit on Tuesday, killing 34, wounding hundreds, and destroying thousands of homes and livelihoods. More than half the population of Grenada is now homeless.

Welles Henderson, a fourth-semester medical student at St. George's University in Grenada, witnessed the devastation and the anarchic aftermath firsthand.

He was on the first floor of a two-story house under a table, wrapped in a rug, to prevent being hit by shards of glass as the category 5 hurricane passed overhead.

"I was with my roommate and a friend downstairs," Henderson told The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler. "We'd barricaded ourselves with a dining room table and furniture from our living room and put a carpet over the top of us to protect us from glass shards as our roof got ripped off above us.
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The fierce winds pulled apart most roofs and left an acute crisis in Grenada, where more than half the 100,000 residents are homeless and in desperate need of shelter, water and basic supplies.

"Our roof was the last to go and probably it took about 40 minutes before the eye came over the top of us. At which point, we ran upstairs, salvaged anything we could, and then proceeded to get right back underneath the table while the second side of the storm hit us," Henderson recounted.

He pointed out there are two generations of Grenadians who have never seen a hurricane and didn't know how to prepare.

"The last time a hurricane hit the island was in 1950, Hurricane Janet," Henderson said. "All through Monday night (the hurricane hit on Tuesday), we heard hammering and drilling as plywood would be put in place."

But after the storm, there was total devastation, he said. "You would see these bombed-out houses with no roof but with the plywood still in place. So the windows were maintained, but the house was utterly destroyed."

At least 34 people were killed and more than 500 injured in the storm. Hospitals with short supplies were straining to deal with them.

"My roommate and I did as best we could," Henderson said. "People were walking around with many cuts and bruises. The problem was that we had no supplies. There was nothing dry. We had some polysporin and strips to treat people who came by who needed it, but there was nothing left to help these people out."

Following a frenzy of looting, troops from Trinidad and Antigua patrolled the streets of St. George's, the capital, carrying assault rifles. Other Caribbean troops stopped cars at roadblocks and enforced a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

"There was rampant looting, because these people lost everything," Henderson said. "Their entire houses were grenaded around them. The island is absolutely utterly devastated. It's very, very sad place to be."

Prime Minister Keith Mitchell toured the devastation Friday and "lost his voice, speaking to hundreds of individuals," Health Minister Clarice Modesce-Curwen said.

One U.S. aid shipment arrived by plane on Friday, said Bob Fretz, consul general at the U.S. Embassy in Barbados, who was helping to coordinate charter flights home for hundreds of Americans.

The American Red Cross disaster unit planned to send $70,000 worth of relief supplies, said Doug Allen, who heads the unit. The country must have aid within two days to avoid a critical situation, he said.

About 10 tons of donated supplies - from drinking water to tarpaulins and medicine - arrived Friday aboard a fishing boat from nearby Trinidad and Tobago. Private citizens came up with the donations quickly, said Bruce Milve, a 45-year-old Trinidadian who helped organize the shipment.

Government officials estimated some 90 percent of homes were damaged or destroyed. The main businesses, including tourism and spice crops such as nutmeg, also were hit hard. Many Grenadians say they have never seen such devastation.
  • Tatiana Morales

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