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Reports say BVI’s ‘knocked down, but not knocked out’ by Irma

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Jost Van Dyke, a little island in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) that draws boats from all around the globe to its powdery beaches and ebullient bar scene, has been “knocked down, but not knocked out” by the recent passage of Hurriance Irma, according to reports.

Thousands of visitors came to this island for the boisterous New Year’s Eve celebration at Foxy’s — a wooden beachside bar decorated with the license plates and flags that visitors have left behind since the 1960s, reported the New York Times.

But after Irma’s winds annihilated many of the homes, the paper said Foxy’s Tamarind Bar and Restaurant has become something else entirely: the island’s de facto command center and lifeline.

Without electricity, running water or telephone lines, the island’s 298 inhabitants have been marooned, forced to survive with what they salvaged: a satellite phone, a chain saw, a week’s worth of food, the Times said.

It said there is little to no government presence on the ground, but there is Foxy’s — which has some of the island’s only generators. Beneath the bar’s tattered roof, residents ration supplies and cook meals twice a day for most of the island.

A week after Hurricane Irma roared through the Caribbean, leaving more than two dozen dead, BVI residents vowed resilience, taking it upon themselves to restore some sense of normalcy in the battered archipelago, the Times said.

It reported that many residents said the British government in London, which oversees the islands, has been sluggish to attend to their dire situation, so residents have had to band together.

“We’re an isolated territory,” said Christine Perakis, a resident of Tortola, the largest of the British Virgin Islands.

Jost Van Dyke, the smallest, was ravaged almost beyond recognition, the Times said, adding that green hillsides have been replaced with a brownish landscape of bare tree trunks and white debris.

It said Sydney’s Peace and Love, a bar popular for its lobster, was smashed to rubble by a ferry thrown onto the beach. The red floor boards were all that remained at Harris’ Place, a restaurant, the Times said.

It said Jost Van Dyke’s two gas stations, clinic and primary school are all heavily damaged. Soggy Dollar Bar, where the drink known as the Painkiller is said to have originated, is mostly in rubble, the Times said.

But immediately after the hurricane, it said the tight-knit community of locals began to rebuild, stating that residents have re-established road access by Friday afternoon using the salvaged chain saw to clear trees that had left parts of the island disconnected. An informal census was conducted and locals were accounted for, the Times said.

It said one resident used a satellite phone to communicate with boaters transporting supplies from nearby Puerto Rico, and that food stocks salvaged from the island’s restaurants were consolidated at Foxy’s working refrigerators.

There, the Times said residents have gathered to organize cooking shifts, and set up a makeshift bulletin with notices and rules of conduct.

In the last couple of days, resident said, British helicopters have begun delivering food supplies. Government aid has also been brought in by boat, and a team of technicians was sent on Thursday morning to begin setting up telecommunications, local officials said.

About 75,000 people, most of them British citizens, live on the Caribbean territories of Anguilla, Turks and Caicos, and the BVI — each of which suffered substantial damage from Hurricane Irma, the Times said.

Accused by lawmakers of failing to take adequate precautions to protect the territories more than 4,000 miles away, the British government had begun ratcheting up its aid in the territories by Thursday, the Times said.

It said the government announced it was planning to spend at least 57 million pounds, or about US$77 million, to fund disaster relief efforts in the Caribbean.

More than 1,000 British troops have been deployed to the region and, with help from the private sector, thousands of shelter kits, solar lanterns, water bottles and food supplies, have been sent to the isles, the British government said on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, visited the British islands, reassuring them the government was there “for the long term,” according to the Times.

“The hurricane can come in, it can knock down absolutely everything in its path but it can’t bow or bend the spirit of the British Virgin Islands,”. Johnson said on Tortola, where more than 20,000 people live.

But in the BVI, as in the rest of the Caribbean region, there is still a long recovery ahead for the islands known as a playground for the wealthy and the sailing capital of the world, the Times said. The tourism industry accounts for one in four jobs in the BVI, according to the government.

Basic infrastructure remains fractured on the majority of the islands, the Times said, adding that famed resorts, like the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda, were completely razed. Residents said they had waited up to three hours in lines outside supermarkets and food pantries on Tortola, according to the Times.

Updated 5:02 pm, September 21, 2017
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