Saturday 18 November, 2017

British Caribbean territories hit by Irma look to UK for help

People living in British Caribbean overseas territories decimated by Hurricane Irma are calling on the UK government for much needed help.

Residents of these territories note the speed in which both the Dutch and French governments came to the aid of their Caribbean protectorates hit by Irma but bemoan the lack of enthusiasm to help on the part of British authorities.

People from these islands are reaching out and reporting that the destruction visited upon their countries has gone largely ignored.

Talking with Loop News, some have told of looting, lack of telecommunications and basic amenities, with little word of when help will be provided by the British government.

Colin O’Neil took to What’s App writing:
“BVI is devastated. I don’t recognize my country. I am trying to be strong because so many rely on me. Hard. My home roof Okay. Windows blown out. Tornados. No bark on a single tree. Looting. Pls appeal for help for security. We are DESPERATE.”

Dr. Annelise Lawton, a doctor who works at a hospital in Tortola is reported to have said: “ Conditions are horrific. There is absolute devastation on the island. People will die. There’s no communication between people on the island… there are little pockets of people who have survived.

“All the roads are blocked with debris. People on the island are struggling to access medication. All the pharmacies have been obliterated. It’s just a mess.”

Virgin Group boss Richard Branson’s home on Necker was destroyed and he has set up an operational base in Puerto Rico from which to help the BVI and other Caribbean countries devastated by Irma.

Branson wrote: “ As you can see from the photos, much of the buildings and vegetation on Necker has been destroyed or badly damaged. We felt the full force of the strongest hurricane ever in the Atlantic Ocean.”

The UK Government is supposed to provide protection and security for its overseas territories in the Caribbean. These include BVI, Anguilla, Bermuda and Turks& Caicos which were all damaged by Irma. At least 5 people are reported killed in BVI and 1 in Anguilla from the devastating storm.

The UK government has been heavily criticized for not reacting quickly to Irma and leaving many of its citizens stranded in these territories with little assistance and information.

The UK has not sent a consular team to the affected region and the Foreign Office put out a terse, unsympathetic statement which read : “Our ability to provide assistance may be extremely limited. You should ensure you have your own contingency plan in place and consider your travel plans very carefully.”

The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson rebutted criticisms that the UK Government has been uncaring and remiss in its duty to help the people in its territories affected by Irma.

He pointed out that the Government has pledged 32 million pounds in relief funding and has sent 500 soldiers as well as 50 police officers to help with restoring law and order and to assist with rehabilitation efforts.

He added that the military ship RFA Mounts Bay was deployed to The Caribbean to provide assistance and necessary supplies. Also UK ministers have pledged to double public donations to the British Red Cross appeal for victims.

Responding to criticism that the Dutch and French have been far more helpful to their Caribbean territories, Johnson said that the French had asked the UK for help in the Caribbean in its efforts to help damage caused by Irma.