BY GABBY RAYMOND ’20
Hurricane Irma devastated the Caribbean Islands starting Wednesday, Sept. 6. Antigua, St. Martin, Anguilla, Puerto Rico, Barbuda and the Virgin Islands were the first hit, receiving the full force of the storm. The islands have all sustained major structural damage as well as power outages.
On Sept. 7, Turks and Caicos and Haiti were hit as well, but sustained lessdamage compared to those hit the day before, as reported by NBC.
As small tropical states, these islands are known as tourist destinations and tropical getaways. Yet, in areas like St. Martin and Barbuda, where 90 percent of the buildings are beyond repair, their economy will suffer until the infrastructure has been repaired.
According to the New York Times, there has been a sharp increase in looting as people search for ways to sustain themselves after the massive amount of property damage the hurricane has caused. Shelby Alfred, a Red Cross nurse in Cruz Bay on the Virgin islands told NBC, “There’s no air conditioning, no water, just cots pushed up against each other with tons of people in them — mostly people that lost their homes.”
Medical aid and food supplies have been sent by some organizations in the international community to provide assistance to those affected. The World Food Program, for example, is sending supplies to help the over 200,000 people in need of aid.
In a statement made to NBC, the organization said, “WFP is providing some 30 metric tons of high-energy biscuits, enough to feed more than 17,000 people for three days, being airlifted by WFP from Haiti to the hub in Antigua (where the population of Barbuda has been evacuated) and to nearby St. Martin.”
Yet many people living in the Caribbean Islands fear that they will be forgotten since Irma has moved on and hit parts of Florida. Even though the effects of Irma on places like Miami, the Keys, Jacksonville and St. Augustine, are currently less catastrophic than those sustained by the Carribean Islands, the media coverage has focused on Floridians, who will most likely recieve more government aid and support for damages.
“Floridians were very prepared for the hurricane” said Virginia Guerra ’19, a native Miamian. “This was the largest evacuation in it’s history, and they are capable of finding aid for themselves. But aid came too late for the Caribbean Islands because everyone was focusing on Florida as the Carribean people were still being hit by Hurricane Irma.”
While the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Military have both been deployed to areas like St. Martin and St. Thomas, the local governments on most of the affected islands have not been able to do anything to help their people repair their homes and other buildings. There are concerns that immediate international aid will not be enough to get these nations back on their feet.
A recent quote from UNICEF revealed that, “Around 20,000 children have been affected in the hurricane-hit Caribbean countries and more than 130 schools are beyond repair across Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, the Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos.”
A resident of St. Martin, Conn Davis, told NBC, “The islands are in real duress and need help, and it’s not getting done by our local government. There are a lot of people out here working hard, but we need people to help us help ourselves.”
Victoria Guerra ’19, Virginia’s sister, agreed with Davis’ statement, saying, “So many people have come together to fundraise for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, and that’s what we need to see happening now. The Caribbean nations were hit the hardest and they will need the most aid and donations to recover.”