Updates from the Caribbean continue to slowly trickle in as the extent of the devastation becomes more apparent. First, I finally managed to find a real update out of the Turks & Caicos Islands which suggests they fared about as badly as many of the other Caribbean islands which suffered a direct hit:
Hurricane Irma has caused extensive flooding and damaged many homes in the Turks and Caicos Islands southeast of The Bahamas.
Minister of Infrastructure Goldray Ewing says damage on the most populated island of Providenciales will total at least half a billion dollars.
He says no one has yet been able to assess damage on Grand Turk and South Caicos islands.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Ewing said that a community known as Blue Hill on the northwestern side of Providenciales is “gone” and that homes have been destroyed across the island.
The lack of concrete information from the Turks and Caicos is beginning to lead to some significant criticism from some islanders, as the government appears paralyzed and unwilling or unable to even make contact with the other islands in the country:
Nearly a day after Irma hit Turks and Caicos, government officials and families still haven’t heard anything from Grand Turk, South Caicos and Salt Cay, hit directly by Irma’s eye. On Friday, a former premier of the county, Michael Misick, said it was “unacceptable” that the current premier and government hadn’t done an aerial survey of the hardest hit parts of the island.
“We don’t know the fate of our brothers and sister in those islands,” Misick said. “In Providenciales, it is unacceptable and unsafe that 12 hours after the storm has passed there has been no attempt to remove a single pole from the road. What are we waiting on to begin pumping the water off the road and removing the poles?”
The next bit of news, with respect to Barbuda, does not surprise me. With the extent of the destruction there – 95% of all structures destroyed – the Antiguan government was faced with the stark choice of either evacuating the citizens or putting them in tents and temporary housing until reconstruction could be completed, and the latter choice begs the question of whether a reconstruction can even be completed in anything like a timely fashion.
After evacuating the Barbudans from the path of Hurricane Jose, the Antiguans are now making noises about not allowing the populace to return. I personally think it could be a year or more before Barbuda is inhabited again:
“The biggest problem in Barbuda now is the fact that you have so many dead animals in the water and so on, that there is a threat of disease. You could put all the people back in Barbuda today … but then you’ll have a medical crisis on your hand,” Foreign Affairs Minister Charles Fernandez said.
Finally, more information is coming out about the damage in the US Virgin Islands, principally in St. Thomas, where a humanitarian crisis is starting to develop:
Four deaths were reported in the U.S. Virgin Islands and officials on St. Thomas said they expected to find more bodies as crews struggled to reopen roads and restore power. The hospital on St. Thomas was destroyed and the harbor was in ruins, along with hundreds of homes and dozens of businesses. Adrien Reinhardt said houses in her neighborhood were leveled, and many people had a week’s worth of food and water. “Let people know: We need food, we need supplies to survive,” she said.
I am also hearing reports of looting on St. Thomas as well. This does not surprise me, since the Virgin Islands has the highest murder rate in the country and worse than places like Chicago and Baltimore. Hopefully, the looting has not reached the crisis levels of St. Martin, but information remains scarce.