Statia holds Ecumenical Service as hurricane season commences

Statia holds Ecumenical Service  as hurricane season commences

From left: Commissioner Reuben Merkman, Council lady Rechelline Leerdam, Island Governor Alida Francis and Acting Island Governor Sharon Hassell with members of the clergy and some of the attendees at the Ecumenical Service.

ST. EUSTATIUS--On Monday, June 3, the Bethel Methodist Chapel was filled with members of various denominations across St. Eustatius for an Ecumenical Service dedicated to prayers for protection during the hurricane season.

The official hurricane season began on June 1 and will come to a close on November 30. Sister Candy Woodley welcomed all guests and attendees, setting a tone of warmth and community for the service. Methodist Reverend Telford Matthew conducted the service. After an inspiring song of praise by the Methodist Worship Team, the service commenced.


Amaralysha Henry performing during the service.

The service was attended by island officials including Commissioner Rueben Merkman, Island Council members Rechelline Leerdam and Mercedes Lopes-Spanner, Acting Island Governor Sharon Hassell, Edris Bennett-Merkman of the Disaster Management Organisation, and several clergymen: Pastor Maurice Howard of Big Stone Fellowship, Pastor Melville Hazel of Bible Baptist Church, and Deacon Ricardo Fortin Sr. of the Roman Catholic Church.

The congregation joined in prayers led by the worship leader, interceding for comfort and peace throughout the hurricane season. Various scripture readings and performances were held during the service. The highlight of the service was a performance by young Amaralysha Henry, who captivated the audience with her rendition of “God Answers Prayer.” Just two weeks prior, Henry had won the Gospel Competition organised by the Methodist Church Commission and her talent shone brightly during this service, earning her loud applause and cheers from the congregation.

Island Governor Alida Francis addressed the attendees, urging the community to collaborate with the government in hurricane preparedness as done in the past years. She recalled the significant impact of the last major hurricane in 2017 and emphasised the importance of vigilance and readiness. “We must remain vigilant by being prepared,” she said.

Disaster Manager Andre Bennett also spoke, expressing gratitude for the opportunity to gather once again in such a setting. He also reflected on the past months of this year, which have seen more rainfall, extreme heat and occasional Saharan dust compared to previous years.

Bennett highlighted projections from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which forecast an 85% above-average hurricane season with 17-25 named storms, 8-13 hurricanes and 4-7 major hurricanes. He noted that these tropical cyclones can cause catastrophic damage to homes, the environment and even loss of lives.

The increase in named storms is attributed to changing weather patterns, warmer water temperatures and the global warming situation which is affecting the entire world.

In preparation for the anticipated hurricane season for 2024, the Disaster Management Organization executed the necessary training exercises, which were held before the official hurricane season commenced. An extraordinary meeting of the disaster management organisation was also convened last week by Island Governor Alida Francis (chairlady), together

with the respective Emergency Support Function (ESF) coordinators in preparation for this hurricane season.

“We have utilised the government Facebook page and other platform mediums to inform the public of ‘Hurricane Disaster awareness and preparedness’,” Bennett said. “Due to the geographic positioning (location) and the small scale of our island, we are classified as vulnerable to a number of natural phenomena such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, heat waves and severe drought.” Some of these phenomena come with various challenges in the preparatory phase, due to required expertise from abroad.

The Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute KNMI is currently on the island to conduct annual seismic and geological monitoring, ensuring the instruments are operational for detecting seismic activities.

Bennett assured the community that the Disaster Management Organisation remains committed to ensure that the safety, security and well-being of the public, private sector and non-governmental organisations are in place. “We also solicit your prayers on our behalf, that God would grant us wisdom and safe keeping during this hurricane season 2024,” he added.

Bennett explained that the island is also better equipped to deal with any potential crisis or disaster situation, due its modern Emergency Operation Center. The island’s colleagues from the Ministry of Defence (Marines) will visit the island later this week to execute their annual communication test with the neighbouring posts on St. Maarten, Curaçao and Aruba. This will be followed by another test in July.

“As a precautionary measure, we urge the public to take the necessary steps to ensure that they are prepared for this hurricane season 2024 and to adhere to the instruction and advisories from the public entity of St. Eustatius,” Bennett said.

He thanked the community for their cooperation during the 2023 hurricane season and looked forward to continued support in 2024.

The Daily Herald

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