Paradise lost: Tortola seeks UK aid after Irma

Paradise lost: Tortola seeks UK aid after Irma


The scale of the damage on the island of Tortola is truly shocking. You have to see it to appreciate just how massive this storm really was. 

The East End area of Tortola looks like a war zone; no building is untouched, the debris of entire houses destroyed, yachts, cars and enormous cargo containers is scattered in all directions and this is just one area.

The people wander around shell-shocked.

Village after village, town after town is like this; smashed by Irma as the hurricane passed over the eastern Caribbean.

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So far almost no outside assistance has reached these communities. The roads to East End are open but nothing worthwhile has arrived yet. Even slightly off the beaten track they are still unreached.

We travelled by yacht along the coastline marvelling at the destruction in every community. We came ashore a mile or so from East End in Josiah Bay. It’s a paradise location, or rather it was.

Off the beach we were greeted by a wall of fallen trees we had to cut our way through. Our guide was not just shocked but utterly confused. He could not find a way out of the bay because it doesn’t look anything like he knows.

The whole of Josiah has been utterly trashed. The storm surge flooded it out then the winds came.

It used to be a tropical jungle but the wind has stripped the vegetation and downed the trees. Now it is a bare brown valley of tree stumps.

Walking through the town we came across families digging away at the collapsed buildings or sitting on porches chewing on their remaining supplies. The most aid anyone has been given here is a box of water.

“I can’t really tell you how we feel except we are praying thanks because we survived,” Jermaine, a resident, told me.

“I never thought I would see something like this. In the coming days we do need to hear from the authorities what they are going to do to help us,” he added.

An elderly couple stopped their battered car to give us a lift. They are utterly unimpressed by their government’s response or the response of the “Mother Island” – the UK.

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“They say they are responding and have done what they can,” the lady told me.

“Well they ain’t had the storm, we did, and we are saying they haven’t done enough – any of them.”

They dropped us at the Tamarind Club, or what is left of it. The Tamarind is a hotel that has been badly battered but still has a working kitchen and is now a sort of makeshift community centre for the whole of the bay.

Everyone gathers here to try and get a sense of what has happened and to come up with plans to make sure the bay’s community has basic supplies and is safe.

In the days after the storm the tales of looting and armed gangs stealing has particularly spooked Josiah Bay.

American Cindy Stone runs the club and is a powerhouse of positive thinking and hope.

“We hear the sound of gunfire and there have been gangs. So we protect ourselves. We have nine dogs and cars we can use to block ourselves in. But it is scary for everyone,” she said.

“We have seen your soldiers and police and they are really nice and offer to help if we point something out but to be honest they are overwhelmed. There is just not enough stuff going on,” she added.

The truth of the matter is the whole island has been hit and everyone is overwhelmed.

The recovery will likely take years – 95% of the island’s boats have been destroyed according to the initial analysis of local experts. In this part of the world 95% of all business is somehow connected to boats.

This is a proper disaster and the relief effort for huge parts of the British Virgin Islands has barely started.

(c) Sky News 2017: Paradise lost: Tortola seeks UK aid after Irma