Caribbean islands begin clean-up after Hurricane Irma


A multinational rescue and clean-up effort is underway in the Caribbean islands as Hurricane Irma eased to a tropical storm over Florida after killing at least four people, turning roads into rivers in Miami, and leaving over 3.4 million homes without electricity.

Irma killed at least 25 people in the Caribbean and left a trail of “utter devastation”,  a resident of Tortola told The Guardian. The islands of Antigua and Barbuda, St Martin, Saint Barthélemy (St Barts), Anguilla, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico all suffered extensive damage.

The Dominican Republic, Haiti, Turks and Caicos, Bahamas and Cuba were also affected.

On September 8, disaster risk experts said Irma would cost the Caribbean over $10 billion (£7.6 billion), making it the region’s “worst storm of all time”.

Great Britain, France, the Netherlands and the United States have dispatched medical supplies and aid workers, military personnel and transport, and financial assistance to the devastated islands.

Below is a breakdown of the relief assistance by country:

Great Britain:

  • Prime Minister Theresa May’s government increased the UK’s relief fund for British overseas territories from £12 million to £32 million on September 7, after facing harsh criticism that it “did not respond” quickly enough to, or did enough to prepare for, the threat from Hurricane Irma. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also said the British government would match the public donations made to the Red Cross.
  • On September 11, Mr Johnson told the BBC Radio 4’s Today show that 700 British troops were in the region, including 125 soldiers working with local police on the British Virgin Islands.
  • Several military planes loaded with supplies and personnel were flown to the region to help with relief and reconstruction efforts.
  • Supply ship RFA Mounts Bay arrived in the British Virgin Islands on September 8 to provide aid relief after anchoring briefly in Anguilla to repair a police station and the island’s only hospital. Onboard were 40 Royal Marines and Army engineers to help rebuild critical infrastructure damaged by Hurricane Irma. Royal Navy Wildcat helicopters were used to transport medical supplies to shore.
  • HMS Ocean, the fleet flagship of the Royal Navy, was diverted from the Mediterranean and should arrive to the Caribbean next week.
  • Mr Johnson will visit the battered British Caribbean islands, according to the BBC.

France:

  • Emergency food, fuel and water sent from neighbouring Guadeloupe.
  • Two frigates with helicopters.
  • The Associated Press reported that EDF, France’s main electricity provider, sent 140 tonnes of electrical equipment to help restore the power supply to St Barts and St Martin.
  • President Emmanuel Macron announced he will visit the hurricane-damaged French territories as soon as weather conditions permit.

The Netherlands:

  • Prime minister Mark Rutte’s government sent planes with troops, food, and water.
  • Two ships with supplies.
  • There are 344 Dutch troops on the Dutch half of St Martin (Sint Maarten), and another 200 soldiers are expected to arrive over the coming days, according to Dutch Minister of Defense Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert. Reports of widespread looting and violence emerged in the aftermath of the storm, with one local likening the situation to a “civil war“. In a press conference on September 10, Prime Minister Rutte said: “Safety on the island seems to improve,” says Rutte. “But the situation is still fragile.”

The United States:

  • The U.S. aid includes “five warships, helicopters, cargo aircraft, National Guard troops and thousands of pounds of supplies”, according to The Chicago Tribune.

Some relief for the hard-hit Caribbean emerged when Hurricane Jose, which had been on a similar path to Irma, veered north, away from the battered islands. Weather experts have said the emergence of three major hurricanes, Irma, Jose and Harvey, which hit Texas as a tropical storm last month, reflects what the science of climate change would suggest with warmer seas generating more frequent and fierce hurricanes in the the Atlantic.

 

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