In six weeks time until the 2018 hurricane season kicks off and residents that suffered in so many ways by hurricanes Irma and Maria are becoming increasingly anxious as many are fully aware that their homes have not been partly or completely repaired. This worry is not overlooked and the Minister for Communications and Works Hon. Mark Vanterpool on whose lap the issue of building and infrastructure falls lamented these uncertainties as the hurricane days draw closer.
Heightening the situation is an announcement that was made on 10 April by the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) urging residents, visitors and the public to remain attentive to the 2018 Atlantic hurricane predictions and to “Be Ready and Stay Ready” come June 1.
In fact the DDM stated that “considering the devastation caused by the events of 2017, residents are urged to prepare early and remain in a heightened state of readiness throughout the hurricane season,” the Department announced.
However, the pressure is building for those who must now ponder how they can make it through hurricane force winds without roofs, doors or windows. The gravity of the situation was highlighted by Hon. Vanterpool during the recent House of Assembly sitting as he explained that many homes have not been repaired, and may not be ready by June. Some residents and natives are rather disgruntled and some speak openly about leaving the BVI where they feel that government has been of little or no assistance to those who invested their life savings in building their homes here.
Mr. Vanterpool told his colleagues: “You will recognize that people are hurting, people are suffering; people are still in houses — many persons are in houses just surviving. Willing to accept what they are for now, because it is better than nothing. I think we must be conscious of this, conscious of what is happening.”
Following the devastations Government piloted an initiative aimed at providing household assistance to vulnerable residents, but Hon. Vanterpool fears this might not be enough. In fact the Minister said that the amount earmarked for the project might be insufficient. “You think $15M is money for the amount of houses I see mashed up around here. You think this is money…a 1000 homes getting $15000 each.”
This amount the Minister stated would be insufficient for persons whose homes were severely damaged or demolished by the two hurricanes. He used the example of a woman who lives in Long Bush who he said lost her entire home. “Her house blow down completely, she cannot hear well – she is doing her best. She is a wonderful lady, she does not want any handout. She came to me, I got somebody to draw her a plan she is trying to get herself back – the house went flat – no house to live in,” the Minister said.
Hon. Vanterpool mentioned that the resident approached him for guidance on how to get help, but he said the process had her going back and forth. He said he had to pay for the new house plan that the woman required out of his pocket; “The house itself is costing no less than $100000 to build.”
Therefore, Hon. Vanterpool stressed that the $15M government earmarked for housing assistance might only scratch the surface. He said that there are a number of persons in the Territory with damaged homes and little to no means to fix them. “You think $15M gone cover them?” “We cannot sit and look at our people in houses that are so badly damaged and turn our backs on them that is not what we’re here for,” he added.
DISAPPOINTED & DISGRUNTLED
Before the 2017 hurricane season there were many reports in the printed media indicating that four hurricane shelters were not be operational in emergency situations and even the DDM headquarters were in poor condition: then came the flood, Irma and Maria.
A number of persons that have suffered calamitous damage to their properties have indicated that profiteering is rampant and – to add insult to injury – banks are recalcitrant in helping those in critical circumstances. On the last aspect some feel that quite a few businesses will go bankrupt and properties will be foreclosed. “If government does not intervene,” one commentator said “the BVI will go downhill for many years to come and this is very bad for both the poor and the rich; some have conveniently attached religious twists and turns to our misfortune, but we got to be practical – it’s time to wake up!”.