TORTOLA, BVI — The Monday thunderstorm that brought with it torrential rain and caused business as usual to come to a halt in the British Virgin Islands, dropped what is said to be an “unprecedented experience” of 17 inches of rain, damaging infrastructure, schools, businesses and seemingly all aspects of living in the BVI in one way or another.
“We are now in the clean-up and recovery phase following the effects of the tropical wave that affected our territory on 7 August, 2017. As you are aware, as much as 17 inches of rain fell in less than 17 hours. This was truly an unprecedented experience for this territory,” said BVI Premier Orlando Smith in a statement issued to the media.
The aftermath of the storm left authorities with no other option but to delay carnival, which was at the height of activities when the storm came. The parade had first been rescheduled for today, but the vast damage forced local officials to cancel the events altogether.
“We are all grateful to God that no lives were lost. As a resilient people, we have been working together non-stop to mitigate the effects of this storm,” Mr. Smith said. The premier said relief organizations such as the Red Cross, Rotary and others were assessing the damage to inform relief and restoration decisions. Work on homes, critical infrastructure and government facilities had commenced.
Mr. Smith revealed that Tortola was the hardest hit of all the British Virgin Islands, which also include Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Jost Van Dyke along with over 50 smaller islands and cays.
“Our assessments thus far indicate that, while the entire territory experienced heavy rains, most of the damage is concentrated on Tortola. An initial assessment has shown significant damage to the road network on Tortola, as well as interruption of the water distribution system. Schools throughout Tortola have also sustained damage.
“Although several homes were flooded, there was no need for any of the emergency shelters to be activated; thanks to the community spirit of our people. I encourage more of our people to lend a helping hand to those who suffered loss – whether through buying groceries or helping those who lost much of their household goods to get replacements,” Mr. Smith added.
Organizations and residents in the U.S. Virgin Islands have been showing their support by collecting donations for flood victims. Seaborne Airlines announced in a release issued Friday that it is working with the BVI government by facilitating a clothing drive for those affected by the flood.
“In times like these, we come together as one Caribbean island and assist each other, said Seaborne Commercial Vice President Hector Montanez. “Our teams in Puerto Rico and the USVI are donating what they can and nay help from the community is very appreciated.”
The League of British Virgin Islanders said on Friday that it stands in support of the BVI government, residents, family and friends as they recover from widespread damages incurred during recent torrential rains.
“A number of members including myself, were on Tortola during the flood event and witnessed first-hand the extensive damage from the east end of the island to the west,” said Moleto Smith, the organization’s president. “The League recognizes BVI Islanders are a resilient people and it is most fitting that the level of solidarity and community exercised to fast track recovery efforts especially for businesses and educational sectors of society are taking place during this week when our emancipation is commemorated. I encourage everyone throughout each community to show and be of support.”
Premier Smith said most BVI businesses suffered damage. “Immediately following the deluge, [they] set to work – drying out water, clearing the damage and restoring their operations. This is the true evidence of our resilience. I was really gratified to see this,” he said.
Mr. Smith added that the Ministry of Communication and Works has been making a “concentrated effort” to ensure that the territory gets back to a state of normalcy.
“Crews from the Public Works Department (PWD) continue to work to clear the debris from the roadways and ensure that these roads are safe for our people to traverse. The priority is to clear the main road arteries first, which would allow the PWD team to gain access to the feeder roads where persons may be trapped in their homes. The priority areas at this time are central Road Town, East End, and North Side.
“We encourage you, as much as possible, to allow the teams from Public Works and BVI Electricity Corporation to undertake the necessary restorative work by limiting the amount of traffic that is traversing these priority areas. Unencumbered access work will allow the teams to complete the work in the shortest possible time.
“Reports from the BVI Tourist Board indicated that overall the industry escaped relatively unscathed. I am pleased to say that the tourism industry both land and sea remains operational. All the airports and seaports throughout the territory are currently opened and fully functional,” Mr. Smith said.
Image Credit: BVI News.