Britain’s Prince Charles has described as “utterly heartbreaking” the destruction caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean.
Speaking after meeting families made homeless by both hurricanes, Charles said it was “painful beyond words to see the devastation,” reported the Evening Standard on Sunday, stating that the heir to the British throne’s comments came during the first of his three-day visit to the Caribbean.
“It was so painful beyond words to see the devastation that was so cruelly wrought across the Caribbean by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in those few, terrible weeks in September,” said at a Friday night reception in the Antiguan capital of St. John’s.
“In Barbuda, as well as in the British Overseas Territories of Anguilla, Turks and Caicos, and the British Virgin Islands (BVI); in Dominica; and in Puerto Rico; St. Martin and other islands, too, the loss of life and property and the damage to the natural environment have been utterly heartbreaking,” he added.
“This is why it was so important to me that I should come to the Caribbean this weekend — to show my support — however inadequate that may be — for those who have suffered so greatly; and to thank all those who have worked so tirelessly and courageously to help and assist them,” Charles continued.
The prince was greeted by the governor-general of Antigua and Barbuda, Sir Rodney Williams, and the country’s prime minister, Gaston Browne, the Standard said.
It said Charles’ visit, which began on Friday, started as the UK government reaffirmed its commitment to “stand by” the islands devastated by the natural disasters and announced a further £15 million (£1 = US$1.33) in support.
The new International Development Secretary, Penny Mordaunt, has launched the financial package — £12 million for Dominica and £3 million for Antigua and Barbuda, the Standard said.
It said with the £15 million initiative — plus £15 million recently allocated for the affected Overseas Territories of Anguilla, the BVI and Turks and Caicos — the UK Government has now committed £92 million to help recovery and long-term reconstruction in the region.
The prince was making his first official visit to the Commonwealth nation, whose island of Antigua escaped the worst of Hurricane Irma’s high winds and lashing rain. Neighboring Barbuda and the BVI bore the brunt of its destruction, the Standard said.
Prince Charles met residents of Barbuda whose homes had been destroyed and who were being temporarily housed in Antigua, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported on Sunday.
Later, it said Charles visited Barbuda itself, flying over houses where the roofs had been torn off and replaced by blue tarpaulin. His first stop was to a primary school that was visited last year by Prince Harry. It is now partly ruined and abandoned, the BBC said.
The Barbuda affairs minister Arthur Nibbs told the prince that the force of the hurricane was “unprecedented” in 200 years.
Prince Charles highlighted the belief of climate experts that global warming is already intensifying tropical storms, according to the BBC.
“This will get worse with continuous warming,” Charles warned.
Only about 100 of Barbuda’s 1,700 residents remain, the BBC said.
It said the prince stopped at the home of one of them, Evans Thomas, 50, who had turned his house into a makeshift bar after the nearby pub was destroyed.
The final stop on the royal tour was in the BVI, where the prince met local Red Cross staff who are supporting families left homeless.
Prince Charles said his aim in making the visit was to show the Commonwealth’s support for people who had suffered in the hurricanes and to thank the aid and rescue workers who were supporting them,” according to the BBC.
“The recent events in the Caribbean have helped to underline the importance of the Commonwealth as a family, whose members care deeply for each other in times of need,” he said.