08 September, 2004 - Published 12:27 GMT
Grenada is in chaos and there are reports of widespread looting after Hurricane Ivan scored a direct hit on the island killing at least 12 people and knocking out water, electricity and telecommunications.
Grenada's police commissioner Fitzroy Bedeau says there are 12 confirmed deaths so far in his country though that number could increase.
The Reuters news agency quotes an unnamed U.S. State Department official in Washington as saying that American diplomats on the island have put the dead at 20.
The BBC Caribbean correspondent in St. George’s Michael Bascombe, said there is widespread destruction in the city area.
The prime minister's official residence suffered extensive damage, the National Emergency Relief Organisation headquarters and police HQ have been affected, and some prisoners are on the loose.
Some parts of the island are totally cut off and a number of villages have been totally destroyed.
Speaking to BBC Caribbean Radio from the HMS Richmond, Grenadian Prime Minister Keith Mitchell said the country had suffered about 90% devastation.
"You are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars of damage. When you add that to the productivity and output and other aspects of development that would have been interfered with you are talking about a multiplying effect, so we really got a tremendous hit," Mr Mitchell said.
The prime minister said the main priorities would be to get the communication system up and running and ensure all citizens had food and shelter.
The country has been declared a national disaster and Mr Mitchell said the government was considering whether to declare a state of emergency.
There is no electricity except standby generators, some patients have had to be relocated from the main hospital because of damage to the building, schools and shelters lost roofs. Most utility poles are down, there is very limited telephone coverage and the water has been cut off.
Radio is off air because the broadcasting tower of Grenada’s main station has been destroyed and the smaller FM stations have also been damaged and because of this officials are having difficulty letting people know the situation.
Mr Bascombe said it will take between two to three days to restore water and electricity and that is why there’s been widespread looting.
"I've seen movies, I've heard about hurricanes but never in my wildest dreams I would have lived to experience what I've experienced with Hurricane Ivan, looking and seeing for myself houses and rooftops literally lifted and blown away. It was unbelievable.
"I asked my grandmother for a comparison with Hurricane Janet in 1955 and she said that there was no way you could compare Hurricane Janet with Hurricane Ivan. It was unbelievable what we have seen and a total, total wreck of the island," Mr Bascombe said.
Teams from the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Relief Agency (CDERA) were heading for Grenada later on Wednesday.
In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the BBC Caribbean reporter Jerry George said there have been no fatalities but many injuries have been reported.
"There has been a lot of property damage. There’s been a report of some 120 houses losing their roofs. The hardest hit area has been the Grenadines. The small islands of the Grenadines where on Union Island one of the most southern of the islands, the hospital there completely lost its roof and in fact had its staff huddled in one room for most of the hurricane.
"On Palm Island, one of the resorts there seems to have recorded quite a lot of damage, including the jetty so that not even boats can go to the island. In the north-eastern area of the island some 90 houses were lost around the shoreline."
Ivan's 140 mph (225 kph) winds prompted storm alerts for the Dutch islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, the north coast of Venezuela and Colombia's Guajira peninsula and parts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Jamaica’s National Metereological Service says if the storm maintains it current path, weather conditions could start deteriorating.
The current projections have prompted the Jamaica Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management to place disaster coordinators and shelter managers on high alert and to have their emergency operating centres ready.