Lessons from Hurricane Irma

Lessons from Hurricane Irma

Lessons from Hurricane Irma

Antigua and Barbuda's ambassador to the United States and the Organisation of American States (OAS), Sir Ronald Sanders, on Wednesday morning met with the Inter-American Emergency Aid Committee and representatives of major countries to discuss the impact of Hurricane Irma on Barbuda.

He said that Prime Minister Gaston Browne is already engaged about the need for a careful and well documented plan for the rebuilding of Barbuda that is sustainable, viable and "bankable' to attract the necessary funding".

Medical supplies were provided by Anguilla's Government through the Cayman Island Health Services Authority, Health City Cayman Islands, Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial Hospital and other local pharmacies. At one point, the entire 160 square kilometre (62 square mile) island fit within Irma's massive eye.

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Antigua escaped damage from the monster storm, allowing it to absorb Barbuda's population. "For the first time in 300 years, there's not a single living person on the island of Barbuda-a civilization that has existed on that island for over 300 years has now been extinguished", he said. However, when the rebuilding is done, it must stand up to any future hurricanes, because he believes "climate change is here to stay". His presence on Barbuda and the fact that he could personally give comfort and hope to the traumatised, bewildered and desperate people was decisive and invaluable.

Nearly all the island's 1,800 residents were evacuated to the neighbouring Caribbean island of Antigua, and those that remained on Barbuda lashed themselves to the roofs of their properties as winds soared to over 150 miles per hour.

Speaking to the BBC's Laura Bicker as the evacuation got underway, Mr Browne said that a rapid recovery and rebuild operation was unlikely.

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The third is readiness for dealing with a post-hurricane humanitarian crisis.

Evacuees, including 500 children, were sent to Antigua, and were living in cramped government quarters and nursing homes, which Sanders said was "unacceptable". The Antiguans were remarkably open-hearted and welcoming. Not many can decant from one part of their state to the other.

The fourth lesson is that building codes and standards have to be dramatically improved. More than half of the country's residents have been left homeless.

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As it is, the government of Antigua and Barbuda is facing a bill upwards of US$250 million to rebuild Barbuda, but it is a US$1 billion economy. "We have now to be able to cope with it", Sanders told PRI. The release said that Browne confirmed that all Barbuda residents have been relocated to Antigua, with just a contingent of military personnel remaining to provide security."I'm very grateful for the visit by the CARICOM Chairman, Secretary-General and other members of the delegation". The views expressed are his own.

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