Even as Antigua and Barbuda primed themselves, battened down the hatches and followed the rules, there was one reported death on the island after Hurricane Irma’s passing. Unfortunately, there were two more deaths: one in St Barts and the other in Barbuda which has been left “barely habitable” according to Prime Minister Gaston Browne. He confirmed yesterday that most of the housing stock in Barbuda has been destroyed. The island’s population is just 1,800.Irma was a virtual wrecking ball when she pushed her way through to the Leeward Islands bowling aside other islanders’ hotspot recreation, sparing nothing in her wake.
And despite the doom and gloom reports they were given, newsroom manager at the Antigua Observer Martina McDonald-Joseph said she expected much worse. She had been expecting the island to be flattened and even worse for the low-lying sister island, Barbuda.
In an interview with Newsday earlier yesterday, McDonald-Joseph said, “We do not know how bad it is in Barbuda as yet. There has been no communication up to now. The National Office of the Disaster Services are trying to organise themselves to get across to Barbuda. Even before the serious effects of the storm, we were getting reports that roof tops were being blown off and that was just after two hours after Irma began rolling in.”
McDonald said they were not able to track Barbuda as all their internet went down during the hurricane.
“Trinidad and Tobago and the world knew what was happening to us, but we didn’t, and Barbuda is just 25 miles away. There were a couple of areas where there was flooding but nothing significant, not to say that people’s homes weren’t flooded out.
“We were told we were going to be wiped out, that it was going to get something really severe, but all we had was a couple of downed trees, light poles and utility wires. A couple of roofs may have been blown off, but we did not expect this and we are grateful.”
Prime Minister of Antigua/Barbuda Gaston Browne told Newsday yesterday, prior to being updated on Barbuda, the situation could have been catastrophic, but under the circumstances, felt they were “doing quite fine.”
“We had winds in excess of 120 miles per hour,” Browne said. “It speaks to the level of preparedness and the resilience of our country. I feel pleased with their level of preparedness and that they took the storm very seriously otherwise we would have lost so much more because I understand it was the most powerful hurricane in the Caribbean that did such minimum damage.
“In the forecast they had predicted devastation and destruction. A report from a (cable news network) stated that we would become uninhabitable. I was impressed about this being a test of resilience.”
The prime minister said while awaiting the hurricane, he saw his camera crew taking their television equipment inside. He was having none of that.
“I said what kind of foolishness is that? You all should never give up hope.” In Saint Maarten, homes, hotels and government buildings were decimated.
The French government said it was concerned that thousands of people had refused to go to the shelters on the island. Its world famous airport has been devastated with television footage showing the storm ripping through Princess Juliana International Airport, destroying safety fences and battering nearby Maho beach. Sand covered the runway and huge rocks smashed into planes. Large sections of the building were strewn across the runway and a jet bridge snapped in half.
Below are some photos of the damage across Barbuda and St Maarten: