Safety and survival were foremost in the minds of those in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) last evening as they awaited the descent of Category 5 Hurricane Maria, the second tropical storm to hit in the space of about two weeks.
“Persons are more concerned about staying safe and surviving what’s coming our way. Given the fact that Irma took all the vegetation, Maria has nothing to hold on to but structures and she is coming with lots of water unlike Irma. Landslides and extensive flooding is the main fear now,” Cathy Richards, a Guyanese who now resides in Tortola, the largest of the British Virgin Islands, told Stabroek News yesterday.
Hurricane Maria only a day before pummeled the island of Dominica, and killed at least one man in Guadeloupe.
According to an update from the British Virgin Island’s Department of Disaster Management (DDM), Hurricane Maria—which had maximum sustained winds of around 175 miles per hour as per CNN around 9pm last night—was expected to bring 10 to 15 inches of rainfall to the British Virgin Islands, with as much as 20 inches in some locations and could cause “life-threatening flash floods and landslides.”
Richards expressed fear over the possibilities Hurricane Maria will bring with it, given the damage the island has just experienced due to the passage of Hurricane Irma.
“…Persons are remaining resilient, bonding together, looking out and praying for each other…yes, persons lost everything but are being hopeful and strong,” Richards stated. She related that for now, relief is not a priority in persons’ minds, as there is no water or food shortage and many have stocked up on supplies.
The BVI implemented a 6pm curfew on Monday evening in preparation for the hurricane.
“I’ve extended the curfew in consultation with the Premier and with the Cabinet from 6 pm tonight, Monday, until the Hurricane all-clear. That is done to allow public works vehicles to quickly get debris off the streets,” Augustus Jaspert, Governor of the BVI, stated during the press briefing on Monday, which was reported by JTV Channel 55 News.
The eye of Hurricane Maria was set to move near or over the US Virgin Islands last night, and then cross to Puerto Rico today, where thousands of refugees were transported to just last week, according to a Reuters report. Notably, those refugees largely came from the US Virgin Islands and St Martin. Cleveland Beres, Honorary Counsel to St Maarten, spoke to Stabroek News just before 6pm yesterday, while citizens still were feeling the effects of the hurricane, which had passed south of the island en route to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Beres said that it had begun raining an hour prior, but related that they were only experiencing light, intermittent showers, accompanied by moderate winds.
“Apart from that, we’re okay,” Beres said, while also extending heartfelt sentiments to those territories that the hurricane would subsequently encounter.
CDC assisting returning nationals
Meanwhile, Colonel Chabilall Ramsarup, Director General of the Civil Defence Commission, in an interview yesterday said that the agency will be assisting anyone who returns as a result of the disaster and needs assistance in travel or being accommodated in a shelter.
Additionally, the CDC, with support from the Ministry of Health and other ministries and the Private Sector Commission, plans to send 10 containers to Antigua to be distributed to affected territories through the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).
On Sunday, the CDC sent a planeload of supplies, including water, food, hygiene kits, medical supplies and a generator, to Antigua for distribution. The aircraft was sponsored by Komal Singh, of Gaico Construction.
“We have put together a committee…and we’re trying to formulate a response to Hurricane Irma. And now we have another hurricane,” Ramsarup stated, while making reference to Hurricane Maria.
The CDC’s other efforts include the establishment of the Civil Defense Commission Irma Recovery Fund, which will supplement the government’s donation of US$100,000 to the devastated island states, through donations from the public. The accounts will now also accept donations for those affected by Hurricane Maria.
Accounts have so far been set up at the Republic Bank Guyana Limited (651-993-8) and the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (011802489012).