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Hurricane Update From the Virgin Islands

Please see the following report from the Virgin Islands in District 7020. — ACS

The British Virgin Islands are still reeling from the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma. However, the recovery process has started and we are hopeful that we will recover sooner rather than later.

Current Unofficial Assessment: About 80% of homes and businesses, as well as the Government's Admin Complex have been damaged; 330 persons are in shelters and numerous individuals are staying with family and friends whose homes are still intact; regular ferry service between the BVI and USVI is temporarily suspended. Most of the public schools were damaged; Some persons have temporarily relocated to get their children in school and for their businesses.

Improvements: Electricity has been restored to most of the capital, Road Town, and portions of Wickham's Cay - the main business district; Telecommunication, while not yet perfect, has improved dramatically; All three telecom providers now have service on Tortola and limited service is now available on Virgin Gorda, the second most populated island; Other outlying islands and some remote places on Tortola are still being worked on. Our primary radio station has been up and running for about 2 weeks which is extremely important for our communication; The airport opened earlier this week to commercial flights.The shipping port is open for commercial and regular shipments. Government has given a welcomed remission on customs duties to importers of building supplies, furniture, generators and a few other key items up to 31st December - this is a major gift to jump start the rebuilding process.

Security: Law and order has been restored with reinforcement of the RVPF by the UK Military and forces from Cayman and Bermuda. Curfew has been reduced to 8:00pm to 6:00am and the state of emergency is expected to be lifted in two weeks; A couple of private schools are slated to open the beginning of October and most if not all of the public schools by November (some in temporary locations). Banks are open, including some ATM machines. Supermarkets opened their main branches shortly after Irma and other businesses are gradually opening; Debris is being cleared on a daily basis. Some communities have come together to assist in the effort, and the difference is noticeable, e.g., East End; On Tortola, two gas stations are open and another will come on stream next week.

District/International Supplies: Heard from Jackie, Disaster Chair this Morning. You would be happy to know that PDG Rupert and others are fine. The shipment of water was ready to be shipped on Tuesday but Maria came. Our Logistics Coordinator, Jo Ryan will liaise with PDG Rupert on this.

41 Shelter Boxes arrived early in the week. 2 men from Shelter Box should be in BVI any day now to assist us with assessment and set up of the shelters in the coming weeks.

Rotary General: A WhatsApp chat for the BVI Family of Rotary was set up about 2 days after Hurricane Irma; 122 members are on and others are being added daily. This was initially set up to ensure members were fine. Relief and rebuilding Ideas are shared as well as general pertinent information. The chat is also used to galvanize volunteers; A Hurricane Relief Coordinating Committee was formed to plan and bring structure to our efforts; We mobilized and run one of the largest shelters in Road Town with support from the Social Department. The resident count was 86 the night that Maria came close to the BVI. Yesterday the shelter had appx. 40 residents.

We assist with a feeding programme of up to 1000 meals per day, delivering meals to the shelters, and more recently the prison. Pussers Restaurant has done a tremendous job preparing those meals; Special funds were raised locally to help with immediate emergency supply of food and water; The Department of Disaster Management (DDM) sanctioned Rotary as an official consignee to receive relief supplies; Rotary has worked with DDM to receive, inventory 7 40' containers of aid and dispatched all but 2.5 containers in 24 hours to our nine Electoral Districts for distribution to individuals; We were able to achieve this through the support of businesses that made their equipment and staff available, including Meridian, RoadTown Wholesale Trading Ltd and One Mart as well as two community volunteers. We are assisting the UK Millitary and DDM with the cataloging and distribution of relief supplies. We liaise with DDM when necessary and have requested assessment reports by CEDEMA to better understand the current needs.

There are several voluntary organizations currently in BVI and more are coming daily. We have been meeting regularly to collaborate on matters of common interest, to shore up each other when necessary, expedite things and very importantly avoid duplication of effort; Some of these NGOS are Virgin Unite, VISAR, Team Rubican (UK), Serve On, International Red Cross, Catholic Charities and Aerial. UNICEF recently arrived and we intend to engage them in the conversation, particularly since we understand (unofficially) that they may be interested in doing something with the schools, which is one of the priority areas that was identified by BVI Rotary as a possible major project. In this regard we also plan to speak with the authorities to clearly understand the needs of the Territory's schools and what support has been committed to determine how we might best assist with same. We plan to engage Lions in these discussions.

BVI Rotary has an excellent reputation and a great Logistics Coordinator; hence, we are being asked to assist and/or undertake logistics for incoming aid on a regular basis. Rescue Global and Air Link are the latest voluntary organizations to engage us. We introduced them to the District Disaster Coordinating Committee given the impact of HI on the District. We anticipate, expect and would be grateful for more emergency supplies of food and water (not clothing) over the next few weeks. Building supplies including roofing material would also be welcomed.

Apologies for such a long report. Regular updates will be very brief. Many thanks to all for your support. - Best regards, Delma Maduro

Posted by Alec Smythe
September 24, 2017

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