No one is now living on a small Caribbean island deemed uninhabitable after Hurricane Irma decimated it on Sept. 6.
The island of Barbuda, part of the Antigua and Barbuda nation, is only about 15 miles long and about 6 miles wide. It bore the full brunt of Irma’s 185 mph winds. Some 95 percent of buildings were damaged, as well as all critical infrastructure. The island has no running water, power, or communication services.
“The damage is complete,” said Ronald Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the United States, during “The Takeaway” radio show.
“For the first time in 300 years there’s not a single living person on the island of Barbuda,” he said.
The statement may not be completely accurate. Many residents lasted out the storm in their homes. The government has since evacuated all 1,800 residents to Antigua (which suffered no major damage). But the government stated it is keeping a police and military presence on Barbuda.
Despite the destruction, most residents made it through the storm.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne called it “just miraculous” that only one person died due to the disaster.
The rebuilding effort, however, is a “mammoth task”, Sanders said.
Not only does the island need to rebuild the homes and infrastructure, it wants to rebuild them to withstand hurricanes stronger than Irma.
“We must build properties that can withstand winds of up to 250 mph,” Browne said.
Rebuilding in such a manner would cost over $200 million, he said.
That’s an astronomical sum for a country with a gross domestic product of about $1 billion.
Browne said the country is not eligible for some international aid because it is now considered high-income. He said the government is trying to raise money from private sources.
“We have private friends who are wealthy, we have contacts with certain leaders throughout the world, and we will utilize those connections to raise resources,” he said.
He also promised to release records of all relief money the government receives and how it’s used.