By Francis Joseph
Reporting from Grenada
PRIME MINISTER Dr Keith Mitchell has enforced a dusk to dawn curfew in the wake of Hurricane Ivan, which devastated Grenada on Tuesday, leaving an unofficial death toll of 18 thus far, but the Grenadian PM said yesterday he expects this figure to rise as the days go by. Prime Minister Mitchell, whose official residence was completely destroyed, told Newsday a limited State of Emergency and curfew were imposed yesterday to halt widespread looting in the capital St George’s and curtail the movements of more than 250 prisoners who escaped from the island’s Richmond Hill Prison. Mitchell said when the Richmond Hill Prison was destroyed, all the prisoners with the exception of Bernard Coard and 14 others escaped.
Coard and 16 others were convicted in 1986 for the murders of then PM Maurice Bishop and members of his Cabinet in a bloody takeover in October 1983. Mitchell confirmed that two of those 17 escaped and are still at large. They are Hudson Austin, onetime strongman of Bishop, and Leon Cornwall, who are both serving life terms in the Grenada colonial prison. The Grenadian PM was confident that Austin and Cornwall would eventually surrender. Most of the escapees have been recaptured and are being kept in a holding bay at the same Richmond Hill Prison. Mitchell met with members of his Cabinet yesterday for the first time since Ivan struck. He said the damage was widespread and the country’s agricultural sector was destroyed, but he was confident that Grenada would be back on its feet again although it still has international debts to repay.
Mitchell pointed out that the Grenada National Stadium, venue for the 2007 Cricket World Cup, was severely damaged. He said the Cricket World Cup was very important for Grenada and his government intended to rebuild that stadium, to fulfil its obligations to the international cricketing community. On a lighter note, Mitchell admitted that he fled his official residence shortly before Ivan “because every time it rains I have to find another room to sleep. Now with an approaching storm, I had to get out of there.” The official residence of Governor General Sir Daniel Williams was also completely destroyed. Yesterday, 55 Trinidad and Tobago soldiers arrived in St George’s and are conducting personal security for both the Governor General and Prime Minister.
Meanwhile, TT’s Prime Minister Patrick Manning was expected in the village of Beause Jour for a meeting with Mitchell yesterday evening. The US government has declared Grenada a disaster area and this could clear the way for an initial provision of US$500,000 in emergency relief for the island. The OECS and UN humanitarian agencies are also offering to help Caribbean nations ravaged by Ivan. A Tobago Express aircraft has been made available to evacuate TT students from Grenada.
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