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The Unprecedented Trio: The Catalyst For A BVI Renaissance

looting in the Capital Road Town, and a full breach of the prison facilities. As the eye of Hurricane Irma passed over Tortola, it destroyed the National Emergency Operations Centre, and its weather and warning systems and telecommunications, leaving the authorities and the population without any further emergency communication. This would prove to be challenging with more storms looming. The 2017 disasters also caused widespread damage to administration buildings across the Islands, impacting Government’s ability to deliver services. IMMEDIATE RESPONSE TO EARLY RECOVERY


Most BVIslanders grew up hearing stories and scant details of the 1924 hurricane that left the Islands in total ruin. Truth be told, hurricanes are not strange to the BVI. In as much as we claim God to be a Belonger who stretches out his omnipotent hands and steers the hurricanes north or south of our Islands, Virgin Islands has over every generation, experienced many storms, including some severe ones. September 2017 however, saw the strongest and most devastating storms to impact our Territory in its recorded history. In fact, Hurricanes Irma and Maria were two of the strongest and most intense storms in Atlantic history. They dealt the Islands a one two punch, the most devastating of which was BVI’s direct hit from Irma on September 6th, followed by Maria’s scathing two weeks later. These storms were preceded by widespread flooding throughout BVI in August, 2017.

Together these three weather events, dubbed the unprecedented trio, resulted in damages and losses to the Territory in the range of US$3 billion, nearly three times the Islands’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Beyond the economic and financial impact, our livelihoods, social cohesion, physical infrastructure and environment as well as our main business sectors suffered incalculable damage. In the aftermath of the storms, the level of physical destruction to the Islands was analogous to a war zone, differentiated only from the destruction of bullets and bombs, by the distinct footprint of the most callous of natural disasters. Trees of every size were uprooted and transformed into projectiles, those left standing were stripped to their bark – making a large percentage of the Territory’s vegetation nonexistent. Coastal roads and interior roads were eroded or blocked, and made impassable. Beyond roads, the disasters badly damaged the transportation infrastructure, such as sea ports and airports and rendered them inoperable. Poles were flattened, rendering the entire electrical distribution network unusable. Similar devastation occurred with the telecommunications systems as well as the water and sewerage networks, curtailing the delivery of basic utilities across the Territory. The trio did not spare any section of the BVI society. Over eighty percent of buildings and homes were damaged or uninhabitable. Social infrastructure, such as schools, clinics, post offices, fire and police stations emergency shelters, community centres, and churches were severely damaged and in some cases decimated. Financial services, the main pillar of local economy, managed to continue its operations with the activation of business continuity plans. However, tourism, the main source of employment, was heavily impacted, costing the Territory US 1.2 billion in damage and loss (ECLAC 2018). Both land and sea-based infrastructure, such as hotels, villas, and cottages, restaurants, docks and charter yachts were severely damaged. Significant security concerns developed, with widespread


JULY 2019

As with most natural disasters, rapid response and early recovery are extremely critical to ensuring that the disaster impact is not exacerbated. To this end, immediately after the storm, through its established disaster response systems, the Government provided emergency humanitarian assistance in the form of shelter, food, water, clothing, medical attention and hygiene items to most affected in the community. Along with the immediate humanitarian response, Government commenced early recovery efforts, focusing on a Territorywide cleanup to make roads passable, removal of debris and derelicts; securing lives; provision of food, shelter and essential supplies; restoration of necessary and critical public services, managing security concerns, and resumption of air and sea access to Territory. Government’s efforts were buttressed by the UK, particularly in security and law enforcement, the local and international private sector, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), governments, and regional and international organisations. Through these collaborative efforts, including cash assistance to vulnerable households, setting up of temporary educational and healthcare facilities, emergency livelihood programs, etc. the Territory was brought to some level of functionality and normalcy that would allow recovery to be pursued in earnest. RECOVERY PLANNING

The unprecedented level of destruction necessitated a well thought out and fully articulated plan, setting out a comprehensive framework and plan for recovery. Therefore, in order to have a comprehensive and collaborative blue print to guide the recovery, the Government began developing the plan with inputs from Territory wide community consultations and stakeholder meetings. Invariably, because of the level of impact and destruction to the Territory, many

Profile for Business BVI

Business BVI July 2019  

The theme for the July 2019 edition is ‘A View Beyond the Horizon’, which is intended to reflect where the territory is post 2017, while at...

Business BVI July 2019  

The theme for the July 2019 edition is ‘A View Beyond the Horizon’, which is intended to reflect where the territory is post 2017, while at...