- NEAC CHAIRMAN LOOKS AT IMPACT OF RECENT
- HURRICANES ON THE BVI
- The official damage assessment report from Hurricane Lenny is expected
to be in by December 1st, according to Chairman of the National Emergency
Advisory Council (NEAC) Elton Georges, but preliminary indications are
that the territory sustained only moderate damage from this 'strange' system.
- The BVI has had real practice with executing its disaster management
programme in recent years, with the biggest challenge coming from Hurricane
Hugo in 1989 when some $40M in damage was reported. Then there came hits
by Hurricanes Luis, Marilyn, Bertha and Georges over the last five years,
which tested the mechanisms in place locally to deal with such disasters.
In effect, the system is very much prepared.
- The 1999 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which was predicted to be even
more active than previous years, will definitely be remembered for at least
two of the hurricanes which formed in the latter months of the traditional
June to November season.
- The BVI was prepared to take a direct hit from Hurricane Jose which
struck October 21st, but the system lost strength as it approached the
islands and consequently, residents were spared and the assessment report
indicated only light infrastructural damage and minor damage to vegetation.
In fact, when the system reached the BVI, the territory only had to contend
with a Tropical Storm as opposed to a Category 2 Hurricane.
- While the late-season, coming from the West Hurricane Lenny also did
not strike the BVI with the strength predicted on November 17th/18th, significant
damage was recorded. The main affected areas would be the Sir Francis Drake
Highway in West End which suffered from erosion due to high seas, a major
- the Coxheath area which created a roadblock and an apartment complex
in Kingston which lost its roof.
- According to the NEAC Chairman, the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC)
was able to successfully manage the event, but in the midst of it all,
a number of weaknesses have been identified which need to be urgently addressed
in order to establish a more effective disaster plan for the British Vigil
- "The damage that we sustained was moderate.there are damage assessment
teams out...they are being fairly thorough and we don't expect to get a
report until around the 1st of December," the NEAC Chairman told the
Island Sun. He said the teams would be looking at all the physical damage
throughout the territory to public infrastructure and to private property
and in every sector, including the hotel and the marine environment.
- In evaluating the National Disaster Plan, Mr. Georges said it worked
fairly well, as it as intended to, except that it is now clear that the
EOC support system needs to be augmented. "The plan calls, for example,
for at least two teams of workers to be in the EOC and one set relieves
the other; we have not been following that to the letter and the result
is that some of us at the EOC had to work extraordinarily long hours and
that's not good
- because you get tired and if you're tired you can't make good decisions."
- Another weakness identified relates to the shelter programme. On this
last occasion, 11 shelters were opened and eight were used. He said in
some cases, they were not able to field enough people to work at the shelters.
"We're still looking for the formula, we trained shelter managers
but a number of them don't volunteer to come out when we actually need
them; we're still looking for the way to ensure that we have sufficient
- at the shelters in order to not put any strain on any one person."
Mr. Georges said the effort continues to procure
- generators for the shelters and to get the buildings properly retrofitted.
- He said they're still trying to refine other aspects of running the
shelters, like food distribution and a report should be available from
the former Director of the EOC in Montserrat Franklyn Michael in early
December so that the recommendations can be incorporated in the local system.
- "We were met with a challenge on this occasion, as we have been
sometime in the past..., where we were caught with a number of tourists,
people chartering yachts, who, all of a sudden, their yachting vacation
was interrupted and they had to come in and a place to stay was a problem,"
he explained. Therefore, there were a number of yachters who were forced
to use the shelters.
- The NEAC Chairman said the authorities would shortly be holding discussions
with the Tourist Board and other interests in the industry to come up with
a plan to deal with this problem in the future.
- While the BVI National Disaster Plan has stood the test of time, Mr.
Georges said certain aspects of it must be revised to keep pace with the