Published: Sun, September 17, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Barbuda a desolate island after Hurricane Irma

Barbuda a desolate island after Hurricane Irma

Damage in the village of Codrington on the island of Barbuda, which was devastated by Hurricane Irma.

"The damage is complete", lamented Antigua and Barbuda's ambassador to the U.S. Ronald Sanders.

NASA Earth Observatory Antigua and Barbuda before and after Hurricane Irma. Most are now staying on Antigua. They cross them at will and with no fear of being turned away by any immigration officer. It's the people with less means, they won't have insurance and all that. "Their destruction is ruthless, heartless and pitiless".

"I received notice of additional food aid that will be collected from some CARICOM members, leaving out of St Vincent on Friday with a capacity to carry some 1800 tonnes of supplies", Premier Dr D Orlando Smith said after the meeting with CARICOM.

Barbuda is barely 155 square kilometers. Hurricane Irma was 364 miles wide when it spread itself across the Island, overwhelming it in size, strength and ferocity.

Hurricane Irma did the same thing to the Virgin Islands, where it was also a Category 5, with winds of 185 miles per hour. Neither Barbuda nor its inhabitants stood a ghost of a chance against so formidable and all-encompassing a monstrous power.

Persons who visited include Chairman of CARICOM and Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr Keith Mitchell; Secretary General of CARICOM, Irwin LaRocque; and Coordinator for the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, Stephen O'Malley; among others. There is no electricity there, there is no potable water anymore, there is no structure in which people can survive.

"They're anxious to go back home".

In agreeing with this observation, the Antigua and Barbuda ambassador said: "This is precisely why the country requires global help". Antigua has some natural resilience; Barbuda has none.

"It was the most devastating experience in my life".

Currently, residents of the island are housed in government buildings and hospitals in Antigua.

There are lessons for the entire Caribbean to learn from the Antigua and Barbuda experience.

Mentioning that Barbuda has world-class beaches with pink sand and crystal clear water, he said the island is handsome for tourism. The second is the incalculable benefit of strong and visionary leadership. His leadership, they say, was "inspirational". "It shows we have other Caribbean brothers and sisters who are standing in solidarity with us", Browne said after taking the delegation on a walk-though Barbuda's devastated capital, Codrington."Clearly, this is a very hard time for Antigua and Barbuda and we are very appreciative of the support and, certainly, all of the pledges that will be made", he added.In the British Virgin Islands, where the delegation toured affected communities and met with Premier Dr Orlando Smith and Government and Disaster Management officials, the release said that the focus is on meeting critical immediate needs such as water and food supplies while simultaneously working on arrangements for getting students back into schools. "For the first time in 300 years, there's not a single living person on the island of Barbuda - a civilization that has existed on that island for over 300 years has now been extinguished". He has a personal connection to these people.

The third is readiness for dealing with a post-hurricane humanitarian crisis. He said the government is trying to raise money from private sources. The Antiguans were remarkably open-hearted and welcoming. He says he believes the country can use all the help it can get. But, the initial costs were borne by the government.

"My home? Gone", one Barbuda resident said from a shelter.

The rebuilding effort, however, is a "mammoth task", Sanders said. PRI quoted Browne as saying the result of the storm is a "national disaster of epic proportions" and that Barbuda needs outside help.

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