TORTOLA, British Virgin Islands, Wednesday September 13, 2017 – Caribbean community (CARICOM) Chairman, Grenadian Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell has declared that the regional grouping will undertake a major initiative to support the reconstruction efforts in the islands battered by Hurricane Irma.
The commitment came after Dr Mitchell and CARICOM Secretary General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque yesterday joined a team from the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) to get a first-hand look at the havoc wreaked by the ferocious Category 5 system on Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands.
Stunned by the devastation he witnessed, Ambassador LaRocque endorsed the labelling of Irma as a “nuclear hurricane”.
“When it shook Tortola [in the BVI] as a Category 5 and you have heard it being described as a nuclear hurricane, I now understand what they meant . . . . The damage is just overwhelming,” the Dominican-born diplomat said.
“One can shore up building codes as much as possible – and there is always room for improvement – . . . but with a storm of that ferocity, that intensity and as large as it was . . . the only thing that one could do is pray,” LaRocque told online newspaper Barbados TODAY.
The two British territories, along with Antigua’s sister island of Barbuda and the French-Dutch nation of Saint Martin were among the worst hit when Irma unleashed her fury on the Caribbean last week, killing close to 40 people and leaving behind hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.
Dr Mitchell estimated that rebuilding efforts could reach US$1 billion.
“It seems like we are going to have to place more focus on the BVI than what we had been thinking before. That is my estimation of the situation so far,” the CARICOM Chairman said.
“It is still too early to say, but clearly if you have [a group of] countries like the BVI you have got to be talking hundreds of millions of US dollars, if not close to a billion dollars or more. You are talking every government building destroyed. The schools are gone and all of government headquarters. The ministers’ homes and all; no minster’s home was left not destroyed. Parliament gone . . . . We are looking at an enormous amount of resources that will be needed.”
Five people died on the BVI during the storm and hundreds more have been left without running water or electricity.
Mitchell said CARICOM was mobilizing some resources to assist the ravaged islands, and would soon hold a donors’ conference in a bid to secure further help.
“After we get a good idea of the problems and a picture of the destruction and the needs that we have seen . . . that should come soon. That will be CARICOM’s major initiative,” Mitchell assured.