Guyanese in Caribbean islands share Irma experience

DPI, GUYANA, Friday, September 8, 2017

Hurricane Irma is said to be the most powerful in recorded history, its powerful winds have kept it a Category five (the highest on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale). Several Caribbean islands faced the full brunt of the category five storm when she made landfall on Wednesday.

The British Virgin Islands (BVI), home to some 60 percent of expatriates, of which Guyanese are the largest group, was one of the islands devastated by Irma. It is estimated that approximately 1,500 Guyanese reside in BVI.

An aerial of Irma’s damage on infrastructure in BVI (Photo courtesy of Gordon French).

Guyanese Hubert Wong, a high school teacher in BVI said this was the most severe hurricane he has experienced. “This one is pretty bad, this one is pretty bad,” Wong told the Department of Public Information (DPI) via telephone.

Communication infrastructure was damaged during the hurricane limiting access to the island.

Wong explained, “There is nothing to do, that is how devastated the island is. We are on our knees, we are at the mercy of nature. There is nothing, there is no water supply, there is no electricity supply, the electricity infrastructure is virtually destroyed, the water infrastructure is virtually destroyed.”

According to the CARICOM TODAY website, a public health emergency was declared in BVI. Tortola the main island in the BVI chain, also “suffered extensive damage.” Wong disclosed that a Guyanese is among the BVI’s four fatalities, which island officials reported to international media.

“We’ve had a death including that of a Guyanese whose makeshift home was lifted and then pummeled back to the earth and he died,” Wong recounted to DPI.

Teon Charter, originally from Linden, works as health care provider in the BVI. He told DPI this was his first encounter with a hurricane.  Charter explained that the hurricane hit in three phases and the “worst part of the experience” came in the second round.

Charter recounted there was a 30-minute calm before the second round of pounding from Irma began.

“The second part…was much more devastating. It was horrendous being in here. It was like the storm came in uninvited,” Charter recalled.

A number of persons have been displaced and are homeless even as the island is on hurricane watch for another hurricane, Jose.

Like the BVI, Antigua and Barbuda also suffered extensive damage from Irma. Prime Minister Gaston Brown was quoted in international media as saying the island of Barbuda is practically uninhabitable. According to CARICOM TODAY Irma “destroyed critical infrastructure” in Barbuda.

A Guyanese in Antigua told DPI that persons are being evacuated from Barbuda to Antigua, even as relief supplies are being ferried to Barbuda.

Anguilla, St Kitts and Nevis also felt Irma’s wrath. However, the danger is not yet over for these island states.  BVI, Antigua and Barbuda and other Caribbean states are on hurricane watch as Jose strengthens to “an extremely dangerous” category four hurricane.


By: Tiffny Rhodius

Piled up boats left in the wake of Irma (Photo courtesy of Gordon French).


The destruction of Irma to buildings (Photo courtesy of Gordon French).

Teon Charter.



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