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Sep 6, 2017

Hurricane Irma flattens Barbuda; northern Caribbean and Florida next for Cat 5 storm

Hurricane Irma – one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Atlantic – is hammering Puerto Rico tonight after slamming a string of small northern Caribbean islands where at least three people were killed in the last twenty four hours. The BVI, Saint Maarten, Antigua and Barbuda are among the island nations affected.  According to weather forecasts, Irma is heading in the direction of Florida and it is not known yet to what extent if it will hit a part of the Bahamas. The islands are still flooding and full assessments of impacts are far from concluding, but news reports say that Barbuda has all but been completely destroyed when the 185 mile per hour winds of the hurricane battered the tiny island. The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne went out to Barbuda earlier today and spoke with ABS Television in Antigua.

 

Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda

Gaston Browne

“I journeyed to Barbuda this afternoon and what I saw was heart wrenching. It was absolutely devastating. I believe that on a per capita basis, the destruction in Barbuda is unprecedented. It is unprecedented based on the type of storm. Hurricane Irma would have been easily the most powerful hurricane to have stormed through the Caribbean and it is extremely unfortunate that Barbuda was right in its path. From my observation, having done an aerial survey, I would say that about 95% of the properties would have suffered some type of damage;; they would have lost some parts of their roofs, some have lost whole roofs, some properties have been completely demolished. It is absolutely heart wrenching. The infrastructure – the utilities infrastructure is damaged; the physical infrastructure is damaged. You would recognize too that the island is literally under water and that in itself represents a serious threat in terms of mosquito borne diseases and we have to be very careful. You know now that we are threatened by yet another storm, Jose, and if that is the case and it is coming our way then clearly we will have to evacuate the residents of Barbuda. As a matter of fact, I am of the view now that Barbuda is barely habitable. Having done the aerial view, the entire housing stock is damaged and in essence I would believe that the cost to repair the infrastructure and the homes in Barbuda would be no less than 150 million dollars. And that is no exaggeration, it is just a total devastation. Barbuda right now is just a rubble and we have to raise a significant amount of resources now to rebuild Barbuda and restore it to normalcy.”

 

Reporter

“So, where are the residents now, Prime Minister?”

 

Gaston Browne

“They are shacking up with each other; many of them in some common areas and that in itself represent some serious health hazard. I would as far as say that at least sixty percent of the population of Barbuda is homeless. And even the areas where they are sheltering are damaged homes so that we are hoping that at least they will not suffer from any of the elements between today and tomorrow because if there are any significant rains today and tomorrow clearly it will create some additional damages. Now, there is one unfortunate incident where there has been a mortality. I was told that an infant actually died as a result of the parent or the mother trying to escape out of a property that was damaged. And during trying to make that escape it seemed something may have happened, we are not too sure, but the child may have  drowned or something – not too sure of the cause of death but we had a fatality. We are also now doing search and rescue.”

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