TOPICS > World

Paradise obliterated by Irma in the British Virgin Islands

September 11, 2017 at 6:45 PM EDT
Across the islands of the Caribbean, officials are struggling to get aid to residents after the deadly devastation of what was Hurricane Irma. Penny Marshall of Independent Television News reports from the British Virgin Islands, where British Royal Marines have arrived to help, but where many residents have lost everything.
LISTENSEE PODCASTS

JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, across the Caribbean, at least three dozen people are dead in Irma’s wake.

Officials are struggling to get aid to the region’s islands devastated by what was then a Category 5 storm. In the British Virgin Islands, thousands have no electricity or shelter.

That’s where Penny Marshall of Independent Television News picks up our coverage.

PENNY MARSHALL, ITN: These paradise islands now look like an alien landscape. Nature has been scorched, every tree on the island stripped of its leaves. And the infrastructure’s been destroyed, every building on the island blown apart.

FELICITO MOSES, British Virgin Islands Resident: Most every people have their part of their home destroyed.

PENNY MARSHALL: Felicitor Moses survived by hiding in a cupboard. His house didn’t.

So, what were you doing when you were in the cupboard?

FELICITO MOSES: Praying to almighty God for this one piece to stay around to shelter, to save us.

PENNY MARSHALL: But now all hope is with the British, whose help has just arrived. Royal Marines are spreading out across the islands to reestablish order. Extra police have also been flown in from other parts of the Caribbean.

And if there was a delay getting help in here, there is now a clear urgency about trying to get it out to those who need it most. But those who can’t wait are desperate to fly out to safety.

Families are sheltering at the airport, waiting for places on planes that so far haven’t come. Heather Robinson and her baby son Luke are waiting. They have lost everything.

HEATHER ROBINSON, British Virgin Islands Resident: I mean, our house literally got swept away from around us.

PENNY MARSHALL: You have nothing left? Everything you own is gone?

HEATHER ROBINSON: Everything.

PENNY MARSHALL: This is all that’s left of your home?

Their entire worldly possessions have been reduced to one black bin bag. They nearly died. Luke survived strapped to his mother.

You must be desperate to get out?

HEATHER ROBINSON: Yes. I mean, I’m really scared. Like, we went through our rubble and found some — like, a thing of peanut butter and some crackers and biscuits and stuff, but we — it’s not going to keep us much longer.

PENNY MARSHALL: This pregnant island restaurant owner is also desperate to get to the safety of Britain.

CLAUDINE VOURDON, Restaurant Owner: I’m not able to help right now, so I may as well get out and don’t become a problem. Like, if I go into early labor, and then someone has to look after me, and that’s not fair.

PENNY MARSHALL: Those who had little here now have nothing. And those with more are worried about how long the recovery is going to take and how much help they’re going to get from the British.

With most of the island’s tourist marinas also obliterated, this place has lost its main source of income too. The pace of the aid operation is picking up. But the planes need to come back again and again if this British protectorate is to get the help it needs to recover.

JUDY WOODRUFF: That was Penny Marshall reporting for Independent Television News.

SHARE VIA TEXT