ATR First: Caribbean Islands, Sport Endangered by Hurricane Maria

(ATR) The latest devastating hurricane to pass through the Caribbean is postponing sports competitions.

(ATR) Around the Rings correspondent Miguel Hernandez says Hurricane Maria is the latest natural disaster in what has been one of the most destructive hurricane seasons the Caribbean has ever experienced.

Hernandez, a Cuban-Hispanic journalist who has experienced several hurricanes in the region while living in Cuba, believes the International Olympic Committee should increase its efforts to aid the region.

"I think that after the destructive path of Maria, it seems that the IOC would have to increase its humanitarian donation of $1 million initially planned for this region during the recent IOC Session in Lima," he says.

The first wave of destruction began hitting Puerto Rico on Tuesday evening.

"It's going to be here for about 24 hours," Central American and Caribbean Sports Organization media director Carlos Uriarte tells ATR. "We have not had an impact of this level for a long time. The vast majority of the people of this generation have not experienced something like this."

In Puerto Rico, the ghost of Hurricane Hugo hangs over the country, a massive storm that in September 1989 affected Guadalupe, Montserrat, Dominica, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and much of the eastern United States and Canada, including the Carolinas.

Hugo killed more than 50 people and caused billions of dollars in losses and is still ranked among the most expensive and destructive hurricanes in history.

In 28 years, no other category five hurricanes with winds of 160 miles per hour have entered Puerto Rico. Maria could break that trend after devastating Dominica. Hurricane Maria is currently a category four storm with 145-155 mile an hour winds.

"They are saying there is going to be a lot of damage here but I hope it’s not like in 1989," Uriarte says. "The problem on our island is the electrical issue. With Hurricane Irma, who recently passed through, I came to receive electric light in my home on Friday, after nine days."

It has been said that the impact of Maria can leave Puerto Ricans without electricity for more than two weeks.

Power outages are already appearing as the storm hovers above Puerto Rico. Calls made to the Puerto Rican Olympic Committee were not answered given the outages.

Due to the danger of Maria, several national competitions in Puerto Rico like the Superior League of Basketball and the Superior League of Volleyball have been suspended. Matches between North American Soccer League teams Puerto Rico F.C. and F.C. Edmonton scheduled for Wednesday in Bayamón have also been delayed. The game is postponed until Oct. 25.

After leaving Puerto Rico, the hurricane is expected to advance on the Dominican Republic where the Pan American Softball Championship is currently being held with representatives of 16 countries, including the United States, and may be suspended. The organizers have accelerated the schedule to try and salvage the tournament but it unknown if the anticipated rains from the hurricane will derail these plans.

Eight provinces in the Dominican Republic are already on alert and evacuations have begun.

Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees president Brian Lewis says CANOC will do its part to help in this "unimaginable and catastrophic" disaster.

"CANOC reaffirms its determination and resolve to stand side by side, shoulder to shoulder and hand in hand with our brothers and sisters enduring the devastating impact of back to back hurricanes," Lewis said in a statement.

"Sport can and must accept its responsibility to assist. It's our duty and obligation. CANOC will collaborate with all international and continental sport bodies in a united effort."

As a spokesman for CACSO, Uriarte ruled out that the devastation created by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean islands would cause athletes from these countries to miss the Central American and Caribbean Games in Barranquilla, Colombia in the summer of 2018.

Many of the best athletes of these islands are developed abroad, particularly in the United States.

Uriarte also recalled that according to regulations, CACSO and the Organizing Committee of Barranquilla 2018 will cover the costs of up to eight competitors and two officials. This encourages the participation of countries that traditionally do not have more than 10 member delegations at the games.

"But it's too early to talk about absences," he said.

Written by Miguel Hernandez and translated by Kevin Nutley.

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