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  • Aerial view of one of the areas in Barbuda damaged by Hurricane Irma

    Aerial view of one of the areas in Barbuda damaged by Hurricane Irma | Photo: teleSUR

Published 6 September 2017

"We had asked Venezuela to assist us in providing two cargo planes, two military planes, to move some building materials" Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister, Gaston Browne.

Antigua and Barbuda's Prime Minister Gaston Browne says 95 percent of the buildings on the island of Barbuda have been damaged by Hurricane Irma.

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Says Islands Braced for Hurricane Irma

"I would have cried because that (devastation) was so heart wrenching. I couldn't believe it," Browne told ABS news. "It's one of the worst feelings I've ever felt in my entire life." 

Comparing the level of destruction between the islands of Antigua, which avoided the brunt of the storm, and Barbuda, he said, "It is extremely unfortunate that Barbuda was right in its path. I never contemplated any possibility that you could've had such a contrast. When we flew over (Barbuda) and saw the extent of damage, I felt like crying, it was absolutely terrible." 

Helicopter lands near damaged area in Barbuda
Helicopter lands near damaged area in Barbuda

"On a per capita basis, the extent of the destruction in Barbuda is unprecedented. From my observation, having done aerial survey about 95 percent of properties would have suffered some kind of damage. They would have lost at least part of their roofs, some have lost full roofs, some properties would have been totally demolished." 

"The entire island is literally on water and that in itself represents serious danger in terms of mosquito-borne diseases. It's an absolute devastation, and this is not a hyperbole." 

Loraine Baltimore, a resident of Barbuda told ABS news, "Last night, my whole house caved in, it was seven of us and all we had to do was pray and call for help. The firemen came to our rescue as soon as they could have come."

Another resident, Jaqueline, said, "This hurricane is the worst experience of my life. I have three children and we were all home with my two grandchildren. When the first part came, it was like the whole house was ripping apart. It was like it (storm) was sucking us up, because we were holding on to the bathroom door." 
"We prayed and later my son-in-law took us to the shelter and we stayed there until all of this was over," she added. 

Destroyed house in Barbuda,

The head of the state said, all the backup communication channels including the satellite phone were inoperable.

"In fact, it really indicated that why they (Barbudans) were unable to communicate with us. We wish we would've gone there sooner, but the helicopter operators indicated that it would've been dangerous to have gone sooner," he said. 

Browne said the government is mobilizing relief efforts and already had a contingency plan that it will now set in motion, "Within the next 18 hours, we intend to mobilize a significant amount of resources that we'll be sending over to Barbuda to provide some temporary relief."

"Getting into Barbuda was a challenge and we weren't able to send in any boats today because seas are still very choppy and very dangerous. But by tomorrow, we should be able to get a few boats in there with supplies."

The government has also employed the services of Caribbean helicopters to move supplies over to Barbuda by Thursday morning, and two cargo planes full of supplies will also be landing in Antigua. 

"We had asked Venezuela to assist us in providing two cargo planes, two military planes, to move some building materials probably out of Panama, to ensure that we can transfer some building material as quickly as possible to start the rebuilding Barbuda," he added. 

The domestic banks have come forward to offer support in the form of standby overdraft facilities that will help in terms of the necessary funds required immediately, Browne noted. 

The head of the state said that he'll be holding a meeting with several agencies to monitor the situation of the aftermath. "We also need to have some of the satellite phones, we took over one this afternoon and hoping we can take over more so that they can communicate with us," he added. 

Even though the island suffered calamitous damages, there has been only one fatality reported so far of an infant who died while her mother was trying to escape a damaged property. 

Addressing the people of Barbuda, Browne assured that "the government of Antigua and Barbuda will take the "whatever measures necessary" to ensure their safety. 

"I've asked them (Barbudans) to stand in solidarity with each other. We are asking them to be patient and support each other, to be vigilant and to cooperate with the government and various agencies as we seek to bring some relief to the Barbudan people," he said. "I've asked them to be positive not withstanding the disaster." 

"We are threatened now potentially by yet another storm, Hurricane Jose, if that is the case, that it's coming our way, then clearly we'll have to evacuate the residents of Barbuda," he added. 

"Barbuda is barely habitable and if we have yet another storm coming in a matter of days, then we'll have to make special arrangements to evacuate all Barbudans and bring them over here until we restore some level of normalcy," he pressed.

Browne estimated the cost of rebuilding the island to be "no less than US$150 million."

"The cost to repair infrastructure, and the homes in Barbuda will be no less than US$150 million. And that is no exaggeration. That is just the total devastation, Barbuda right now is literally in the rubble. We have to now raise a significant amount of resources to rebuild Barbuda," he said. 


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