Monday, 18 December, 2017

Ambassador encourages people to pay attention to Barbuda after Irma devastation

Hurricane Irma's trail of destruction Ambassador encourages people to pay attention to Barbuda after Irma devastation
Melinda Barton | 17 September, 2017, 15:52

As Terry Somerville, from his 88.7 Spirit FM studio, watches video clips of the devastation, he admits it's hard to watch. His presence on Barbuda and the fact that he could personally give comfort and hope to the traumatised, bewildered and desperate people was decisive and invaluable.

In an interview with local media on Wednesday, Gaston Browne, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, said the devastated island is infested with mosquitoes and water flies.

He connected with and became good friends with Bishop Charlesworth Browne, pastor of the country's Christian Ministries Centre.

World renowned for its pink sand beaches many miles long, Barbuda was listed in 2016 by Conde Nast Traveller as one of the top ten destinations to watch.

On September 12, in a formal statement to representatives of the member-nations of the Organisation of American States (OAS), I said on behalf of Antigua and Barbuda: "These storms know no borders".

So the charitable organization behind Spirit FM, Total Change Ministries, chose to take action. Barbuda is not just a disaster, it's a humanitarian crisis.

Currently, residents of the island are housed in government buildings and hospitals in Antigua.

With 95 percent of the structures on the tiny island of Barbuda destroyed, all 1,800 residents have been evacuated, leaving it uninhabited for the first time in 300 years.

Rebuilding in such a manner would cost over $200 million, he said. "If we don't go back we will go down", he warned. He said the government is trying to raise money from private sources. "It could be clothes, they've lost everything".

"We removed 1700 people plus from Barbuda to Antigua, and we've had to find shelter and food and water, and all of that for them while at the same time thinking about how we get 500 school children into schools", he added. Of course, others helped - initially the Red Cross and then the emergency services of a few countries and hemispheric agencies.

The Cayman government also dispatched a team of medical practitioners comprising two doctors and nurses, led by Dr. Glaister Bell from its Health Services Authority to remain in Anguilla for two weeks.

"So that is the best way that you can help Barbuda, is by taking a vacation and coming to Antigua", said Asot Michael, tourism minister of Antigua and Barbuda. "That's my concern, that it will tend to be forgotten". They see no white people, or black people or any shade of colour in between.

At present, the only residents of the island are the pets and livestock that were left behind, some of which are now turning feral.

Anyone who would like to donate to the cause can do so in a couple of different ways.