WU: Days After Irma Ravages Caribbean, Survivors Still Trying to Get Out

Written by on September 13, 2017 in Hurricane Irma, Summer 2017, Tropical with 0 Comments

Articles from wunderground.com

Sean Breslin
Published: September 12, 2017

Days after Hurricane Irma left unthinkable destruction on numerous Caribbean islands – several of which are U.S. territories – residents are still calling out for desperately needed aid.

“My husband is in the Army. As he says, it looks like a war zone,” Jennifer Stephens Cooper, an American citizen who works as a nurse in the U.S. Virgin Islands, told CNN.com as they continued to shelter in their heavily damaged home on St. Thomas. “There’s not one tree left standing.”

With so much desperation for food and supplies, reports of looting have circulated on several islands, leaving survivors with yet another worry.

“We’re hearing rumors that people are posing as police officers and robbing people. We spoke with another nurse who was robbed at machete-point a few days ago,” Cooper told CNN.com. “We’re terrified. It’s a desperate situation. When people run out of water and food, tempers flare. It’s just going to get worse.”

(PHOTOS: The Destruction Irma Left Behind)

At least 34 people have died in the Caribbean, from Barbuda to Cuba, as a result of the storm that maintained Category 5 strength throughout virtually its entire trip through the islands. A massive response came in the days following the storm as countries like France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom sent ships and troops to their territories, but some say the need for help has far outweighed the aid sent so far.

“There’s no food here. There’s no water here,” 70-year-old St. Maarten resident Germania Perez told the Associated Press.

Dutch King Willem-Alexander arrived in St. Maarten Monday to survey the damage, and he was shocked by what he saw. More than 90 percent of the buildings on the Dutch side of the island were damaged, and some 33 percent were destroyed, the Dutch Red Cross announcd.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this before and I’ve seen a lot of natural disasters in my life,” he told Dutch national network NOS. “I’ve seen a lot of war zones in my life, but I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Cuba

At least 10 people died in Cuba in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma barreling through the island – the first Category 5 hurricane to make landfall in the island nation since 1924. Evacuations are still underway in the Caribbean, where more aid is arriving after the hurricane raked a destructive path through the continental United States.

The majority of the victims in Cuba were killed by collapsing buildings, BBC.com reported. Cuba’s president, Raul Castro, said recovering from the impact of the hurricane would be an “immense task.”

Irma made landfall in northern Cuba Friday night as a Category 5 hurricane, ripping off roofs, collapsing buildings and flooding hundreds of miles of coastline.

According to the AP, Cuban authorities warn of staggering damage to all-inclusive resorts and cities along the keys on the northern coast, as well as farmland in central Cuba. Ahead of the storm, more than 5,000 tourists were evacuated.

Video footage from northern and eastern Cuba showed severe damage. According to witnesses, a provincial museum near the eye of the storm was in ruins, and authorities in the city of Santa Clara said 39 buildings have collapsed.

Residents of “the capital should know that the flooding is going to last more than 36 hours, in other words, it is going to persist,” Civil Defense Col. Luis Angel Macareno said late Saturday, noting that the sea water had penetrated some 2,000 feet into parts of Havana.

According to records from the National Weather Service, Irma is the first Category 5 hurricane to make landfall on Cuba since October 1924. Irma is the deadliest storm to hit Cuba since Hurricane Dennis killed 16 in 2005.

Barbuda and Antigua

The nation of Barbuda and Antigua breathed a sigh of relief Saturday after Hurricane José veered north of the islands, sparing the island of Barbuda that lost an estimated 95 percent of its buildings after Hurricane Irma blasted the island as a Category 5 hurricane early Wednesday. Prime Minister Gaston Browne described the island that is home to some 1,600 residents as “barely habitable.”

The residents of the island were evacuated from the island at an estimated cost of $15 million. Browne said roads and telecommunications systems were destroyed and it will take months, if not years, to recover.

The storm also claimed the life of Stevet Jeremiah’s 2-year-old son, who was swept to his death after the hurricane ripped the roof off her house and filled it with water.

“There was so much water beating past us. We had to crawl to get to safety. Crawl,” she told the AP. “I have never seen anything like this in my life, in all the years I experienced hurricanes. And I don’t ever, ever, ever want to see something like this again. I have nothing. Not even an ID to say my name. Nothing. House gone. The only thing you see is the foundation.”

U.S. Virgin Islands

At least four deaths were reported from the group of islands.

On the island of St. Thomas, power lines and towers were toppled, leaves were stripped off plants and trees, a water and sewage treatment plant was heavily damaged, and the harbor was in ruins, along with hundreds of homes and dozens of businesses.

On St. Thomas, resident Laura Strickling told the AP she and her family sheltered in their home for 12 hours as Irma clobbered the island. When the storm finally moved away, they emerged from their basement apartment and saw a largely unrecognizable landscape.

“There are no leaves. It is crazy. One of the things we loved about St. Thomas is that it was so green. And it’s gone,” Strickling said. “It will take years for this community to get back on its feet.”

(MORE: A Complete List of Category 5 Hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin)

President Donald Trump approved a disaster declaration for the islands after Irma left severe damage. The declaration makes federal funding available for storm recovery on the islands of St. John and St. Thomas.

Amid the calamity, the community has unified on Facebook and through other messaging apps to offer each other help and support. The community established for themselves a Google doc entitled VI Fine for people to update information on if they and their neighbors are safe. In the days immediately after the storm, there was complete pandemonium as many locals were missing and family from abroad couldn’t find their loved ones because of shoddy cell service and a scarcity of electricity. The communal doc helped locate hundreds of people, the community group boasts in comment updates on the post linking the document.

Through the Facebook group, locals also started their own GoFundMe campaign to help rebuild the island, which has been devastated by the storm. The page was set up before President Trump approved the disaster declaration.

British Virgin Islands

Devastation was widespread in the British Virgin Islands, but days after the storm passed, officials were still trying to get a full scope of the damage, according to the New York Times. Those who were able to assess the damage to their homes and towns said the destruction was severe.

“It is like an apocalyptic doomsday scene here,” Catherine Clayton, who owns a hotel with her family on Tortola, told the Times. “No trees, leaves or greenery.”

The storm descended on the British Virgin Islands Wednesday afternoon, with wind gusts measuring 110 mph. The islands are home to more than 20,000 residents.

The United Kingdom sent aid and troops which arrived today to assist their overseas protectorate.

Other Hard-Hit Islands

Officials in Haiti confirmed the first death from Hurricane Irma on Monday, the 34th death in the Caribbean from the devastating storm.

The victim, a male, died in the town of Mirebalais in the central plateau region of the country, according to a Civil Protection report obtained by the AP. The man, identified as Manesse Andreval, died while crossing a swollen river, agency spokesman Guillaume Albert Moleon told the AP.

Power outages and widespread destruction were also reported in Puerto Rico and Haiti, where the country’s bean and corn crops, as well as pasture land, were wiped out by the heavy rain and flooding.

One death was reported in Anguilla as the storm made 90 percent of the roads impassable, while “catastrophic” damage was reported in the islands of Turks and Caicos.

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