ST. CROIX — Governor Kenneth Mapp, during a press briefing on Saturday at Government House here, said St. Croix would serve as the staging ground for the recovery of not only the U.S. Virgin Islands, but also the British Virgin Islands, following the calamitous damage Hurricane Irma left in its wake in both territories.
According to Mr. Mapp, the British government has received approval to create a temporary base at the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport, to station relief supplies and assets such as troops and aircraft. Mr. Mapp said the USVI is honored to be able to assist its neighbor.
He also spoke of preliminary talks ongoing with the cruise ship industry for St. Croix to become a temporary hub for ships previously bound to other destinations, since those destinations — Anguilla, St. Martin, St. Thomas, the B.V.I., among others — were so devastated by Irma.
But the surge in traffic, and in turn dollars, on St. Croix will not last forever, Mr. Mapp cautioned, stating that the unique circumstance that has led to St. Croix becoming so indelible a part of the recovery of the U.S. and British territories, serves as an opportunity for St. Croix to prove itself as a major player. St. Croix has for years asked for more tourism traffic, especially cruise ships.
“I do want to say St. Croix continues to expand in the process of being the center of recovery,” Mr. Mapp said. He later added, “I want to caution the folks on St. Croix and the business community, it’s going to be an opportunity to demonstrate that St. Croix can be a player in the industry. And it’s not going to be permanent, but it’s certainly going to be an opportunity simply because other destinations cannot house or receive guests. It’s going to be an opportunity for us as Crucians to demonstrate that we can host, we can entertain, we can secure, and we can give people a wonderful experience.”
The British Virgin Islands sustained even more damage than the USVI, with the British government, as of Saturday, reporting at least 5 deaths. “There has been a lot of devastation, a lot of infrastructure that’s been damaged, and we have confirmed five fatalities as a result of the hurricane,” Governor Gus Jaspert said in an audio message.
Dutch officials said that 70 percent of the Dutch side of St. Martin was destroyed, while the French government said 95 percent of the french side was destroyed, according to the Los Angeles Times. Barbuda was made uninhabitable by Hurricane Irma, as the eye of the storm directly impacted the island of 1,600. Anguilla was flattened as well.
Irma is now whipping Florida.
Below, find the latest updates on the USVI’s relief efforts following the historic storm’s passage:
- FEMA has provided initial relief commodities to isolated St. John by air, as well as meals, water, and roof tarps on St. Thomas, with the assistance of the V.I. National Guard.
- V.I. Water and Power Authority has restored water service to St. Thomas.
- Inmates in detention on St. Thomas will be relocated off island today, to locations undisclosed due to security concerns.
- Evacuation of visitors continues early next week, with anticipated arrival of two ships of the Norwegian Caribbean Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.
- Government services resume on St. Croix on Monday, September 11. Schools on St. Croix will open on Tuesday, September 12.
- Clients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are eligible for replacement food benefits if without power for 4 hours of more following Hurricane Irma. Others previously ineligible for SNAP benefits may now qualify for food assistance.
- FEMA confirms online process to apply for Individual Assistance under the Federal Disaster Declaration. To apply by telephone, call 1-800-621-3362 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. EST 7 days per week. Applications may be made online here. Governor Mapp announced effort to make possible individual assistance via smartphone to reduce congestion at local offices to be opened.
Mapp on Security:
- Curfew violators admonished for hampering work to restore electricity and other recovery efforts. Three curfew violators have been arrested. Police Commissioner Delroy Richards warned of more arrests if violations continue.
- Businesses conducting operations during curfew may face consequence of being shuttered.
- Businesses are also warned against insurance fraud, for example: offering of merchandise ‘giveaways’ only to later claim looting for insurance purposes.
- Virgin Islands National Guard troops now actively patrolling with V.I. Police Officers in St. Thomas and assisting with commodities distribution.
- Following delay due to concern over weather conditions, a ship has arrived with needed commodities being off-loaded this evening.
- St. Croix’s Henry E. Rohlsen airport is a major staging ground for personnel and relief commodities bound for the British Virgin Islands, which also suffered major hurricane damage. Mr. Mapp described it as an “honor” to be able to assist the British government’s relief efforts.
- U.S. Congress applauded for approving $15.8 billion to FEMA for combined recovery assistance.
- FEMA Disaster Medical Assistance Team to establish a temporary hospital outside the Schneider Regional Medical Center.
- V.I. Department of Health nurses are being transported to relieve their counterparts on St. Thomas. Dialysis patients are being transferred to facilities in Puerto Rico
- The Community Health Clinic is being relocated to the Knud Hansen Complex.
- The Department of Health is establishing a first aid clinic to relieve the still functioning Emergency Room at the Schneider Hospital.
- St. John patients are being transferred to St. Croix temporarily, pending long-term relocation with assistance from FEMA. Some St. John tourists are also moving to St. Croix in hopes catching a flight out of the territory.
Charitable Assistance Warning
- Governor advises donors to avoid potentially fraudulent “GoFundMe” solicitations.
- Mr. Mapp announced the appointment of local attorney to establish special account to receive donations under management of the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI) on St. Thomas, and the St. Croix Foundation.
- Offers of donations of skills and labor to be evaluated and coordinated by VITEMA and FEMA.
- Mr. Mapp reiterated that recovery for St. Thomas and St. John will be a long and continuous process towards restoration.
Feature Image: Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron and New York Air National Guard’s 109th Rescue Wing prepare to depart St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, for St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, on Sept. 8, 2017, for rescue operations in the wake of Hurricane Irma. The Kentucky Airmen are now facilitating the evacuation of hundreds of U.S. citizens from the Virgin Islands. (U.S. Air National Guard photo)