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Hurricane Irma

It would be fair to say that at the beginning of this summer, the majority of us never expected two life-changing weather anomalies— Hurricanes Irma, and Maria—to impact our beautiful islands so definitively; Hurricane Irma being the most devastating to the Virgin Islands, and Hurricane Maria to our beloved neighbours in Puerto Rico.

It’s difficult to know how to digest the magnitude of what has occurred; early September saw people lose loved ones, homes, businesses, and livelihoods across the Caribbean, forming a rare, regional catastrophe.

Nelson Mandela—a man renowned for the incredible adversity he faced—once said, “Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward.” However, it is without question that this is not going to be easy.

At VIPY, and in our community, all we can do is try to keep moving forward, learning, progressing, developing, sometimes with two steps forward, and three steps back. But we must keep persevering with the goal of recovering to become stronger than we were before.

We intend to support BVI residents even more than ever, going forward with clear guidance on how to rebuild with best practices in construction, design, off-grid solutions, and prudent product choices. We will look at these subjects in-depth in our December issue.

For now, the Virgin Islands community needs to pull together at this time and both the BVI Premier—the Honourable Dr D. Orlando Smith, OBE—and the Governor—His Excellency, Augustus Jaspert—had strong messages in their speeches regarding rebuilding our islands.

On September 25, 2017, live on ZBVI Radio, the Premier said, “This hurricane that hit us is the scale we have never seen before; it was a Category Five, and it was really devastating…just before that, we had intense flooding, again, such as we never had before in the BVI…global warming is definitely affecting us and we now have to look at where we are as a country and make the adjustments to suit the times in which we live.”

The Territory of the BVI is in a period of recovery, attempting to take and apply as much wisdom from the situation as is possible.

“We have to take lessons from what has happened, certainly with Irma and review our building codes,” said the Premier. “We have lost and received damage to about 70 percent of our buildings, and that now gives us an opportunity to build smarter and stronger.”

There is a strong sense of unity in this overwhelming ordeal with clear goals to collaborate in the reconstruction effort. A press release from the Premier on September 27, 2017, added to the progressive direction.   

“Considering our long-term goals to rebound from this disaster, we have started to establish relationships to foster our rebuild,” said the Premier. “On Sunday along with Minister for Communications and Works, Hon. Mark Vanterpool and Governor Augustus Jaspert, I toured the Pockwood Pond power plant with the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development’s, Secretary, Priti Patel. The Department for International Development – DFID is the United Kingdom government department responsible for administering overseas aid. During the tour, Ms. Petal had an opportunity to see first-hand, the hard-working efforts of both our BVI Electricity Cooperation engineers and the UK’s Defense Force Royal Engineers to restore electricity to our islands.

“Sunday, I received some good news that reminds us that we will rise again,” continued the Premier. “Our very own Tortola Pier Park was given the Port of the Year Award for the 2017 Sea Trade Awards. While to some this might seem simple, it is a reminder of our ingenuity and also comes as some encouragement that with persistence, hard work, and strength, we will one day soon return to prominence. Even as we go through this time, I have faith that God will continue to bless the Virgin Islands.”

The Governor’s comments—also on September 27, 2017—projected to the community and the world a forward-thinking diligence that the islands will be taking.  

“Walking through Spanish Town, I was able to see marked improvements from my previous visit last week; the togetherness of the community continues to shine through,” said the new Governor, who took up his appointment in August. “The Deputy Governor and I thanked the volunteers in the distribution centre, as well as the hard-working public officers for their efforts to date.”

There is a clear acknowledgement of the obvious in residents’ minds—this recovery will be long, but the process is a daily motion that will see the Virgin Islands rebuilt stronger and greater than before.

“I continue to be proud of the community spirit of togetherness that I see displayed daily,” concluded the Governor. “With all of our collective efforts, we will see the Virgin Islands bounce back even stronger than before…May you continue to be united as we work together to rebuild the Virgin Islands…And may God continue to bless us all in this Territory.”


Photography by aLookingGlass

Erin Paviour-Smith

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