By Kenton X. Chance
VIRGIN GORDA, British Virgin Islands, Sept 13, CMC – Several Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nationals, including 10 from St. Vincent and the Grenadines and four from Guyana, are living in a community centre here whose roof was stripped of its shingles during the passage of Hurricane Irma last week.
Carlos Junior Gonsalves, a Guyanese construction worker who has been living and working in Virgin Gorda for almost a year, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that he moved into the Catholic Community Centre, an emergency shelter, ahead of the passage of the hurricane.
He was among 15 persons who weathered the storm at the shelter because they thought their houses were not safe enough to withstand a hurricane.
“We find the shelter here was the fittest place for us to come,” said Gonsalves, who lives with his sister, his brother-in-law and a friend in four apartments in the same yard.
He said that the roofs of all the apartments were blown off and the contents were damaged.
Gonsalves, however, said that he is not going back to Guyana immediately.
“I think they are gonna need us so I am gonna stay,” he said, referring to the massive reconstruction ahead.
Gonsalves said that the only problem he has at the shelter is the fact that the roof is gone.
“As you can see those things on the ground, the shingles, off of it is gone and if we get a little bit of rain, it is going to be tight for us in here because we have lit three kids and like about five women – one pregnant, my sister, she almost time to get baby, she is like seven months,” he said.
“The hurricane, it left me so afraid up to now because it’s the first time I witnessed something like this. A lot of wind; it was terrible. It was during the day and we were peeping through the window to experience a little bit of it, because I never experienced something like that,” he told CMC.
The Vincentians at the shelter used the opportunity to appeal to Kingstown for assistance.
“Right now, we need help from the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We need water, we need food, we need clothing and we need shelter,” Avril Farrell said.
Farrell, who has been living in the BVI for 29 years, said that what is needed is some immediate assistance to help her to get back on her feet and that is where Kingstown comes in.
“I lost everything,” she told CMC, adding that she has to stay in the BVI because of financial commitments.
“The whole place is leaking. There is nothing on the roof; everything is gone,” Branson Gould, another St. Vincent and the Grenadines national, told CMC, pointing out a section of the roof where the light from outside was shining through.
“It is just the ply,” he said.
Residents of Virgin Gorda have put together a committee to respond to the needs of the island, which like Tortola has seen significant damage to the electricity distribution network, knocking the island off the grid.
Also in Virgin Gorda, Hurricane Irma destroyed both of the water desalination plants and damaged or destroyed between 70 and 80 per cent of the housing stock.
On Tuesday, St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Minister of Agriculture, Sabotoa Caesar, announced on Facebook that a boat would be leaving Port Kingstown on Friday to take food and other supplies to the BVI.
The vessel will transport items free of charge to relatives of Vincentians and other persons in the BVI.
Ceasar also said that he, along with the Minister of Economic Development, Camillo Gonsalves, are expected to visit several of the hurricane-affected islands to meet nationals of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to better structure further recovery assistance.
On Wednesday, a representative of the Trinidad and Tobago government was continuing efforts to evacuate nationals of that republic from the BVI.