May 28, 2004 – Firefighters on St. Thomas and St. John and a lawmaker on St. Croix are involved in relief efforts to aid victims of heavy rains in Hispaniola.
Sen. Ronald Russell and the firefighters say helping victims of flooding and mudslides in Haiti and Santo Domingo is the right thing to do, remembering that Virgin Islanders have received help from afar in times of disaster.
St. Thomas-St. John
According to Deputy Fire Chief Ira Williams, the V.I. Fire Service drive in the St. Thomas-St. John district came about with the help of Angel Jiminez, a former fire chief in Santo Domingo who now lives on St. Thomas. "We're working in conjunction with the Fire Department in Santo Domingo," Williams said on Friday. "We're working with the fire chief there."
With Jiminez' help, local firefighters got in contact with Fire Chief Carlos Tomás Ramos in San Pedro de Macoris on the south coast of the Dominican Republic. They arranged to gather relief supplies and prepare them for pickup by a boat that would deliver the goods to Santo Domingo, the capital, which lies west of San Pedro de Macoris.
Attempts to reach Jiminez by telephone on Friday were unsuccessful.
The collection effort began on Thursday. On Friday, Williams said between $200 and $300 in cash had been collected, and people were calling the Fire Service asking to have donations of goods picked up. Williams said pickups can be arranged, but dropoffs at the fire stations are preferred.
It will be helpful if donors pack their items in sturdy boxes. Bottled drinking water, household goods, clothing, personal items and money are being accepted in the relief drive. Checks to aid storm victims should be made out to Virgin Islands Fire Service.
On St. Croix, an aide to Russell said people began dropping off donations at the Legislature offices in Frederiksted on Thursday. "We're not sure exactly how much we have," Maryann Gautier, a receptionist, said on Friday.
Bottled drinking water, clothing, non-perishable food and toilet paper are among the items that have been contributed, according to Gautier. She said callers to the senator's office have been promising more donations in days to come.
As he issued a call for public support on Thursday, Russell recalled the hardships that followed after Hurricane Hugo struck his home island in 1989. "It was devastating," he said.
The heavy rains that have caused rivers to rise and flood parts of Hispaniola are of similar severity, he said. "Floods can really cause havoc," he said.
While acknowledging that details have been sketchy about the damage in Hispaniola, Russell added: "Based on the information that I have, we should really come together as a community here on St. Croix and in the Virgin Islands and just help our brothers and sisters in the Dominican Republic."
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