IMAGE: CNS photo/Stringer, Reuters
By Barb Fraze
WASHINGTON (CNS) — The president of the U.S. Conference of
Catholic Bishops called for prayers for all those in the path of Hurricane Irma
as it approached the United States.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, whose
diocese was hit by flooding from Hurricane Harvey, noted that people in the
Caribban already had ” felt Hurricane Irma’s full force.”
“As the people off the Gulf Coast just begin to sift
through the damage brought by Hurricane Harvey, our nation, tragically, must
attempt to comprehend the approach of Hurricane Irma,” he said in a
statement Sept. 9.
“As Irma moves rapidly toward Florida, we lift up in
prayer all of those who may be impacted, asking almighty God to guide the
steady hands of first responders and to widen the hearts of all who are able to
be generous to neighbors facing danger, grief, or displacement of any kind due
to the disaster,” he said.
“Let us join in prayer for those who are in the path of
Hurricane Irma, and may God bless and protect you.
“At a time like this, when our endurance is tested, we
implore God to direct us to yet unknown reserves of strength and human
compassion for those suffering so deeply. May our manifestations of love and
solidarity be lasting signs in the midst of this crisis,” he said.
The cardinal noted that, as with Harvey, the bishops’
conference would work with local dioceses, Catholic relief agencies and other
groups to offer assistance.
Hurricane Irma was expected to make landfall in Florida
Sept. 10. The state ordered 6.3 million of the state’s approximately 21 million
residents to evacuate; many headed north to stay with relatives. By Sept. 9 more
than 50,000 people had sought shelter in schools, community centers and
Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned of the storm surge along the
state’s west coast. In the Tampa Bay area, Scott said the storm surge could be
between 5 feet and 8 feet.
“This is the most catastrophic storm the state has ever
seen,” he said Sept. 9.
Officials anticipated the path of the hurricane but warned
it could change directions. The storm’s tropical storm force winds covered
about 300 miles. The Associate Press reported that officials in Georgia asked about
540,000 residents along the coast to evacuate. In South Carolina, a mandatory
evacuation order was issued for eight barrier islands, including Hilton Head
Island, the most populous of the islands with about 40,000 residents.
The storm battered Cuba Sept.9 after leaving a path of
destruction in the Caribbean. The Netherlands estimates that 70 percent of the
houses on St. Martin were badly damaged or destroyed. That left 40,000 people
in public shelters as Hurricane Jose approached.
In Antigua and Barbuda Arthur Nibbs, minister of Barbuda
Affairs who was on Barbuda when Irma hit, said it was the worst storm he’d ever
enormous. There’s nothing that is comparable. It destroyed everything that was
in its path,” he said.
Nibbs said roofs
were torn away, trees were toppled, government buildings were destroyed, and
cell towers were snapped in half, leaving the small island of about 1,600
people without any form of communication.
scrambled to evacuate the island before the arrival of Hurricane Jose, a
category 4 storm that was expected to hit Sept. 9. But on Sept. 8, Nibbs said, some
people had decided to stay on the island and ride it out.
should take that chance. There’s no support, no communication, no
transportation. It’s just madness,” he said. “They hardly have any
place for shelter.”
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