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‘We can’t cope anymore’: Caribbean islanders ‘kicked out’ by rising sea levels |  world

‘We can’t cope anymore’: Caribbean islanders ‘kicked out’ by rising sea levels | world

Residents of the island of Panama are being “expelled” due to rising sea levels

Hammocks began appearing this week on the doors of 300 new homes built above a cassava field on the coast of Panama. The residences will be the new home for the residents of the area The first island in the Caribbean to be evacuated due to rising sea levels.

The families, indigenous to the Guna ethnic group who live on the island of Garde Sugdup, in the San Blas archipelago, transported stoves, gas cylinders, mattresses and other belongings in boats and trucks to the new community of Esperiala.

Garde Sugdup Island, in the San Blas Archipelago, in Panama, which had to be partially evacuated due to rising sea levels, in June 2024. – Photo: Mathias Delacroix/AP

The Gunas of Gardi Sugdub is the first of 63 communities along Panama’s Caribbean and Pacific coasts that government officials and scientists predict will be forced to relocate due to rising sea levels in the coming decades.

Every year, especially when strong winds blow on the sea in November and December Water fills the streets and enters homes. Climate change is not only causing sea levels to rise, it is also causing the oceans to warm and thus warming the oceans Fueling stronger storms.

The island’s former residents, all from the Guna ethnic group, soon noticed some differences with the mainland. “It’s colder here,” said Augusto Walter, 73, as he hung the hammock Wednesday in the tidy two-bedroom house with a backyard. “At this time of day there is an oven on the island.”

a Most families in Garde Sugdub have moved or are in the process of moving this weekBut the newly paved and painted streets of his new home, Esperiala, were still almost empty.

The neighborhood built by the Panamanian government on the country’s mainland to welcome island residents who had to be resettled due to global warming, in June 2024. – Photo: Matías Delacroix/AP

Seven or eight families, numbering about 200 people, chose to stay for now, and evacuation was not mandatory. But, to stay on the island, some had to build new two-story houses.

Among those who stayed was 49-year-old boat mechanic Eugencio Arango. “I prefer being here (on the island), it is more relaxed,” Arango said. His mother, brother and grandmother moved to Isperiala.

“Honestly, I don’t know why people want to live there,” he said. “It’s like living in a city, closed and you can’t go out, and the houses are small“.

He says he doesn’t believe climate change is responsible for rising sea levels, but rather the decisions people make. “It is man who harms nature,” Arango said. “Now they want to cut down all the trees to build houses on dry land.”

Ernesto Lopez, 69, moved in Tuesday with his wife, Degna, and two other relatives are expected soon.

“We feel like we’re more comfortable here, there’s more space,” Lopez said, sitting in his hammock on Wednesday. “In Garde Sugdub, we were crammed into houses with too many people. We couldn’t cope anymore, and the sea was getting to us every year.”

they They spent their first night with a battery-powered flashlight And gas stoves that they brought from the island.

The mangoes, green bananas and sugarcane that Lopez had brought that morning from his farm, about two hours away, were piled on the floor of the house. Like most families, they are I didn’t plan to completely abandon the island where generations have spent their entire lives.

“Every now and then we will cross to the island,” Lopez said.

Many of Isperiala’s new residents did so because their new homes did not yet have electricity.

Betsira Brenis, 19, moved in with her mother, grandmother and aunt on Wednesday. Carrying two gallons of water they brought home from the island, she said there would be enough space for the family after living on the crowded island.

She added that they planned to continue traveling between the mainland and the island as well. “The good thing about this is that we now have a new house and another one for the other aunts to stay in.”

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