Jeffries, Meeks request aircraft to transport disaster relief to hurricane-ravaged St. Vincent

U.S. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries.
REUTERS/Erin Scott

Two New York Congressmen on April 21 sought the assistance of Governor Andrew Cuomo in securing aircraft to airlift disaster relief supplies procured from private citizens from the city to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“As members of the NYC congressional delegation, we write regarding disaster relief for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where tens of thousands of people are in humanitarian need due to multiple eruptions of the La Soufrière volcano,” wrote Congressmen Hakeem Jeffries and Gregory Meeks in their joint letter to Cuomo.

Jeffries represents New York’s 8th Congressional District, which includes parts of Brooklyn and Queens, and Meeks represents the 5th Congressional District in Queens. 

The congressmen wrote that, after the first eruption of La Soufrière on April 9, up to 20,000 people, out of a total population of 110,000, were evacuated from the main island of St. Vincent in search of safety.

They noted that water shortages have resulted from the contamination of waterways, and catastrophic damages to homes, caused by falling ash and dust in the streets. 

In addition, they said electricity and food supplies have been disrupted, and that thousands of Vincentians remain in emergency shelters.

Jefferies and Meeks told the governor that Caribbean leaders in Brooklyn and Queens, “which are home to likely the largest Vincentian Diaspora community in the US, have collected relief supplies” to provide to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. 

They said that, for example, the Brooklyn-based SVG Relief Committee, USA. has reported that they have collected enough bottled water to fill two 20-feet shipping containers, 90 commercial shipping bins, 120 barrels and two 20-feet containers of essential relief items.

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks

Jeffries and Meeks said shipping these materials by sea would take roughly three weeks or longer. 

“Alternatively, sending an aircraft with supplies would deliver relief much sooner during this rapidly unfolding crisis,” they told Cuomo. “We, therefore, respectfully request your assistance in securing an available aircraft to airlift disaster relief supplies procured from private citizens from New York City to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. 

“These citizens would greatly appreciate help with the delivery,” Jeffries and Meeks added. “We are prepared to work with you to coordinate efforts for an aircraft and we welcome your partnership.”

On April 24, Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, told relief volunteers at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn, the main staging area in New York for relief supplies to be dispatched to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, that she was working with her congressional colleagues to provide much-needed aid to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. 

 In addition to the standard shipping arrangements by sea, Vaughan Toney, the Vincentian-born president and chief executive officer of the Friends of Crown Heights Education Center, and a member of the SVG Relief Committee, USA, Inc. told a handing-over ceremony, on Tuesday, of a container of relief supplies by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, that the Committee was “making every effort to secure a military transport aircraft to expedite the delivery of these supplies to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.” 

New York City Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo – who represents the 35th Council District, which includes the communities of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights and parts of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn – also disclosed, at the same ceremony, that she and the City Council were working with Congresswoman Clarke, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, and Jeffries “to get (military) transport to get supplies there (to St. Vincent and the Grenadines).”

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