BVI Irma Relief Update - September 19, 2017 - 6:00 PM

A little more than a week after feeling the wrath of hurricane Irma and dodging for the most part hurricane Jose, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and wider Caribbean is bracing for yet another category 5 storm, hurricane Maria. The storm intensified rapidly in 36 hours from a category 1 storm of some concern, to an imminent threat to the region. Maria made landfall on Dominica this morning. While communication is still limited, initial reports suggest there was substantial damage to that island. Groups are already mobilizing to assist once they are able to make contact. 

At 5PM AST hurricane Maria was moving WNW slowly toward the BVI at 10MPH, with maximum sustained winds of 165MPH, and located some 80 miles SE of St. Croix. The eye of hurricane Maria was located near latitude 16.8 North, longitude 64.0 West. The storm is expected to begin affecting the BVI late Tuesday night, into Wednesday morning or noon. At this trajectory the eye should pass just south of the BVI but sudden changes are possible.

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for:

  • St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Puerto Rico, Culebra, and Vieques
  • Cabo Engano to Puerto Plata

Click Here for Full 5PM NHC Advisory

Travel and Ports

For obvious safety reasons all air and sea transport to the BVI has been suspended until the storm passes and authorities give an “All Clear”. The Government plans to open the Airport for commercial flights as soon as possible. The airport tower is operating on supplemental power, which only allows it to make contact with pilots within a 10 mile radius.  For these reasons aircraft are asked to obtain pre-clearance before departure by contacting the tower on Satellite Phone #881651477456.  Port Purcell is still the main sea port of entry. Vessels can make contact on VHF 16.

Distribution of Aid

BVI Department of Disaster Management (BVIDDM), British Military, local volunteers and the BVI Rotary Family are coordinating a massive distribution network. Mr. Joseph Ryan, of the Rotary Club of Road Town is one of the lead coordinators, guiding the teams through sorting and distributing aid to all districts. Several truck loads of aid have already been delivered, with more expected to move quickly after Maria.  Relief teams distributed hundreds of tarps to assist persons with compromised roofs. However, the BVIDDM is encouraging persons to delay installing these tarps if possible, to avoid them sustaining damage from the next storm.

The BVIDDM published lists of all distribution sites and emergency shelters so persons are aware of where to get assistance. 

Volunteers on the ground and abroad continue working to deliver much needed aid to the BVI. High on the priority list are tarps, generators, and other food items.    

BVI Distribution Centers list.jpeg

 

Hurricane Maria Preparation

With hurricane Maria fast approaching, Governor Jaspert in consultation with Premier Smith has extended the curfew from Monday 6PM until the All Clear is given. This will enable relief crews to work more efficiently on clearing debris, roads, and ghuts to minimize flooding. Persons in low lying areas are urged to consider moving to a shelter or alternate location.

BVI Shelters List.jpeg

Communication & Electricity

Telcom networks made significant progress this week restoring coverage to most of the Road Town area, and other areas across Tortola and Virgin Gorda. This made coordinating relief efforts and general contact with the outside much more fluid. Premier Smith, BVIDDM and other official channels are using all media available to communicate important information daily to the public, including radio, social media and daily community meetings across the territory.

The BVI Electricity Corporation and teams of linesmen from other islands will continue rebuilding the power distribution network. So far the main Pockwood Pond power station and Long Bush sub-station are functioning. Power is restored at Peebles Hospital and other key areas in Road Town, giving the town a renewed sense of life.

Security

A joint operation of British Military, local, regional, and UK police recaptured over 100 escaped prisoners, with more expected over the coming days. This team also secured the perimeter fence and other structures at the prison.  It was interesting to note that several prisoners checked on their families after hurricane Irma and voluntarily returned to help repair the prison. The increase in security has greatly reduced occurrence of crime. This is in contrast to various international news houses erroneously exaggerating the situation and using photos of looting in other islands besides the BVI to accompany the sensationalized headlines.

Banking and Business

Banks, ATMs, Supermarkets, Gas Stations, Hardware Stores, Bakeries, Insurance Companies and other business came back on board this week providing more regular service.  Financial Service institutions are assessing damage to their offices while serving clients directly from the BVI or remote locations.  The BVI Financial Services Commission, Company Registry and VIRRGIN system are functioning. Once the weather stabilizes, tourism related businesses are expected to begin repairs with plans to welcome guests as soon as possible. 

BVI musician and school teacher Akim Johnson was spotted keeping the vibe alive with beautiful steel pan music at Peebles Hospital. The BVI Irma Relief team is busy vetting more monetary and supplies donation sites. The BVI New York community held meetings this week with the BVI Tourist Board, and Benito Wheatley, Director of the BVI London Office to focus their relief efforts. 

As gusty winds already start to affect the BVI, we encourage all concerned to keep our people in their thoughts and prayers. 

   

- Dalan Vanterpool (@dalanv)

BVI Irma Relief (@BVIIrmaRelief)

BVIIrmaRelief.org

BVI Irma Relief Update - September 12, 2017 - 2:00 PM

This morning we were able to make direct contact with our sources at the BVIDDM and BVI Government. We hope the following is able to add some clarity and clear misinformation circulating. 

The BVI Government and other disaster management teams greatly appreciate the outpouring of assistance from persons near and far. This is critical to rebuilding the nation and returning a sense of normalcy. From the outside, it is difficult to understand the immense level of infrastructure damage that Hurricane Irma caused. Tasks such as activating distribution centers are extremely challenging, when most buildings are severely damaged and security personnel to maintain order are limited.  

Communication between to the outside world and within the territory is limited, but rebuilding at an encouraging pace.  To make progress they need all involved to stay focused, and exercise patience as we work to overcome the challenges. Here is what we know:     

BVI Airport (Tortola) - Satellite Phone #881651477456

  • The runway is clear and transmission tower is running on limited supplemental power. 
  • The tower is directly managing clearance for all aircraft, including those for emergency aid and evacuation. However, due to limited power, the transmission strength of the antenna only lets them connect properly when planes are about 10 miles from landing. With such a high volume of air traffic and limited communication, for safety there are times when some aircraft are asked to hold or wait temporarily to avoid crashes and further loss of life. 
  • Commercial flights are expected to resume slowly by Thursday or Friday with carriers such as Seabourne Airlines and Island Birds.
  • Landing flights at during the evening is not possible due to lack of electricity to light the runway and surrounding areas.
  • Military security is at this site to maintain safety of persons and goods.
  • For details on contacting all BVI Ports for entry clearance click here

BVI Main Sea Port (Port Purcell) - VHF 16

  • Port Purcell is being used as the main sea entry point for vessels.
  • For details on contacting all BVI Ports for entry clearance click here
  • This port is experiencing similar challenges as outlined for the airport (electricity, light, security, capacity, limited operating hours etc.)
  • Teams are working to urgently to speed up the movement of aid

Distribution of Aid

  • Any rumors that local businesses are selling supplies that arrive as aid are FALSE. 
  • Supermarkets and other BVI businesses normally receive shipments of goods during the early half of each week. Ships that had already left Florida, USA have been holding securely at sea until hurricanes Irma and Jose left, making it safe to enter the BVI. At the moment these ships are carrying goods that businesses already purchased for sale, per normal practice.
  • Convoy of Hope is on the ground flying in aid, helping with logistics and setting up schools as distribution centers in collaboration with BVIDDM on ALL islands. Finding safe sites is difficult as mentioned above, but the process is indeed moving.
  • As early as yesterday (Monday Sept. 11) Althea Scatliffe Primary School in Tortola was able to give aid to lines of people.
  • Hurricane shelters are also stocked with food, water and supplies
  • Port Purcell is also being used as a secure distribution center and some open air locations are functioning as distribution points for communities. However this is limited due to security risks.
  • Trucks are transporting aid to remote areas such as Cane Garden Bay, and smaller boats are forwarding aid to Jost Van Dyke.  Hon. Melvin “Mitch” Turnbull (D2) was seen with British Military loading supplies on to the vessel.
  • Caribbean Flyers Club of Puerto Rico made two flights to Anegada and donated supplies
  • The Virgin Group and other teams are distributing aid on Virgin Gorda.

BVI Banks

  • Cash is now available from bank ATMs on a limited basis during daylight hours.
  • Banco Popular and First Bank ATMs functioning. FCIB ATM expected to come online next.
  • Banco Popular and FCIB IT systems are tested and functioning. Working to resume more service later in the week.
  • ScotiaBank Caribbean relief team is in route to BVI to assist and work on activating the bank

Economy and Financial Services

  • Access to VIRRGIN financial services system is restored. BVI Financial Services Commission and Company Registry are functioning.
  • Trust companies, banks and other services providers are regrouping to restore service. Many companies are serving clients remotely from their headquarters abroad.
  • Small businesses such as P3 Paper Plastic Products and CTL Home Center are open for business and recovering. 
  • BVI House Asia releasing regular statements to keep the industry informed 

Food, Water, Fuel and other supplies

  • Supermarkets have supplies are open in a controlled manner. Food shortage not expected.
  • Bobbys, Rite Way and OneMart Supermarket are open for business
  • OneMart is open regularly from 11AM - 4PM. Hand baskets only to help everyone receive supplies.
  • OneMart and Rite Way accepting cash and credit/debit cards. Bobby’s may be cash only but we are unable to confirm.
  • Shipments of water and other goods arriving this week to replenish supermarkets.
  • Some fuel reserves on hand for electricity will be used for other essential services at until the power plant is back online
  • Gas stations have fuel and are coordinating replenishments. No fuel shortage expected. 

Communication

  • Premier Smith will have a daily briefing to the community moving forward. This will also be aired on ZBVI, ZKING (7PM and 7AM) and WSTA daily.  He will be reporting on actions his government has taken since the passage of Hurricane Irma to get the BVI back to normalcy.
  • Firetrucks are using their loud speakers to share announcements
  • Hon. Mark Vanterpool held a meeting at the Band Stand in Long Bush on Monday. He was also spotted sharing info on a bull horn while people waited in line at Rite Way.
  • ZBVI Radio is reported to be back on air
  • JTV is coming online and helping with interviews of Government officials and residents
  • USVI Radio stations being contacted with updated with news on BVI situation
  • Community meetings are being scheduled to share information
    • Sept 12 - 4PM OneMart Supermarket
    • Sept. 12 - 5PM Lower Estate Basketball Court
    • Sept. 13 - 2PM - Band Stand at Long Bush

Distribution Centers/Shelters that should have supplies*

  • Long Trench Community Centre
  • St. George's Anglican Church - Main Street
  • Francis Lettsome Primary School- East End
  • Claudia Creque Educational Centre - Anegada
  • Church of God of Prophecy - East End
  • Zion Hill Methodist Church - West End
  • Rainbow Home - Lower Estate
  • East End and Long Look Community Centre
  • Jost Van Dyke School
  • Catholic Community Centre - Virgin Gorda
  • North Sound Methodist Church - Virgin Gorda

*Please send us a private message if you are on the ground and can confirm needed changes to this list.

All parties involved are grateful for the support of the international and local community to rebuild the nation and keep us #BVIStrong.

 

- Dalan Vanterpool (@dalanv)

BVI Irma Relief (@BVIIrmaRelief)

BVIIrmaRelief.org

UPDATE ON PORTS OF ENTRY

UPDATE ON PORTS OF ENTRY: BVIDDM is not dealing with clearance centrally now. However, CLEARANCE STILL NEEDED.

Airport Tower and Sea Port Authorities are back up so pilots/captains should radio in for instructions directly from the tower or BVI Customs as they normally would BEFORE trying to enter.

PLEASE USE CAUTION as there will be increased traffic. Inform the authorities on what you are bringing and who you are taking out.

CLEARANCE CONTACT INFO for supplies in or evacuation:

BVI Airports Authority contact: satellite phone #881651477456

Port Purcell (sea port) contact: VHF 16

- Dalan Vanterpool #BVIStrong