Switzerland is sending water, sanitation and hygiene supplies to victims of Hurricane Irma in Haiti and the Caribbean region. The hurricane has lashed islands with devastating winds and torrential rain, killing 19 people and leaving a swathe of destruction.
On Friday, the Swiss foreign ministry announced that Switzerland would send cargo planes containing water, sanitation and hygiene necessities for 15,000 people in Haiti who have suffered from damages caused by Hurricane Irma.external link Some supplies will also be made available to the United Nations in Panama.
Switzerland is focusing its aid on Haiti because it is often the victim of natural disasters and needs help, a spokesperson for the foreign affairs ministry told the Swiss News Agency on Friday afternoon. On Saturday, a delegation from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperationexternal link will travel to the northern part of the country to evaluate the situation.
Switzerland is also supporting other Caribbean islands through the International Federation of Red Cross Disaster Relief Emergency Fundexternal link. Some CHF60,000 ($63,000) in relief aid have been earmarked for Antigua and Barbuda as well as Saint Kitts and Nevis, according to the foreign ministry spokesperson.
It remains to be seen whether the Swiss aid delegation in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince will be reinforced with more humanitarian aid workers from the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation and the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unitexternal link.
Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in a century, threatened Cuba and the Bahamas on Friday as it drove toward Florida.
It pummelled the Turks and Caicos Islands after saturating the northern edges of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Earlier, Irma ravaged a series of small islands in the northeast Caribbean, including Barbuda, St. Martin and the British and US Virgin Islands, flattening homes and hospitals and ripping down trees.
The "extremely dangerous" storm was downgraded from a Category 5, the top of the scale of hurricane intensity, to a Category 4 early Friday but it was still carrying winds as strong as 150 miles per hour (240 km per hour), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
swissinfo.ch and agencies/cl