On this day 31 years ago one of the most devastating hurricanes hit Jamaica. It pounded the entire island, prompting then Prime Minister Edward Seaga to dramatically describe its effects: “like Hiroshima after the atom bomb.”
That is the horrible truth. Hurricane Gilbert entered Jamaica as a category three and left as a category five, with winds reaching up to 175 miles per hour and up to 823 millimetres of rainfall. It left immense damage and destruction, and 50 dead. Nothing comparable has ever happened here.
The hurricane left JA$40 billion in 1988 dollars’ worth of damage to infrastructure. Ninety-five percent of health facilities and more than 80 percent of homes were damaged. Agriculture was devastated and the poultry industry was completely destroyed.
A one-month state of emergency was declared in St. Thomas, St. Catherine, Kingston and St. Andrew. More than 800,000 people had to seek shelter. Water and electricity were lost and wouldn’t be restored for several months.
On this day, we remember the lives that were stolen from us and the country that we almost lost. Fortunately, Jamaicans stood together and helped to restore our country and each other.