Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne spoke about one of his twin island as if it were ravaged by war.
“Barbuda right now is literally a rubble,” Browne told The Washington Post Thursday, as the battering rain and howling winds from Hurricane Irma cleared the far eastern Caribbean islands, and the devastation of its first landfalls came into stark view under a sunny sky.
“It was emotionally painful,” he said. “It was sad to see such beautiful country being destroyed over a couple of hours.”
The airport with a torn away roof, decimated churches and wrecked government buildings amount to “one of the most significant disasters anywhere in the world” on a per capita basis, Browne said: it would take an estimated $100 million to rebuild — a “monumental challenge” for a tiny nation’s government to take on.
At least one death, that of a young child, was reported on the 62-square mile island of Barbuda, with its sole town of Codrington wrecked. About 60 percent of Barbuda’s nearly 2,000 residents are homeless, and 95 percent of property is destroyed or damaged.
But the residents are already warily gazing eastward to Hurricane Jose, which is projected as of early Thursday evening to skirt along Barbuda and Antigua before heading north toward Bermuda.
Browne will make a determination on whether to order mandatory evacuations Thursday evening, but did say anyone who would like to leave can take a ferry for Antigua, which has been largely spared of the devastation inflicted on its partner island to the south.