The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

On tiny Barbuda, a 300-year-old civilization has been ‘extinguished’

New video shows total devastation on Barbuda after Irma (Video: The Washington Post)

Consider these figures.

Barbuda is barely 60 square miles.

Hurricane Irma, the Category 5 tropical cyclone that swallowed it Sept. 6, was nearly 400 miles across.

All 1,800 residents now are homeless, having been evacuated to the sister island of Antigua.

“The damage is complete,” Ronald Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the United States, told PRI’s the Takeaway.

“For the first time in 300 years,” he said, “there’s not a single living person on the island of Barbuda — a civilization that has existed on that island for over 300 years has now been extinguished.”

A local broadcaster in Barbuda summarized the situation thus: The island’s history will now be described in two epochs. Before Irma and after Irma.

Reconstruction could cost up to $300 million, Sanders has estimated.

The ambassador says he and other local officials are working with the U.S. Congress and the Organization of American States to ensure there’s aid, financial and others, so people can begin to repair their homes, their businesses and return to everyday life.

But that’s still a long way off, officials say.


Posted by ABS Television/Radio on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

In an interview with local media on Wednesday, Gaston Browne, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, said the devastated island is infested with mosquitoes and water flies.

Pets and livestock also have been left to fend for themselves on the wind-swept island.

The dogs will look for their next meal among the chicken, pigs, horses and goats, Karen Corbin, president of the Antigua and Barbuda Humane Society, told TIME.

“One of our recommendations is for the dogs to be removed from the island for the health and safety of the other animals,” she said.

Antigua fared far better during the storm, and fortunately, Sanders said, the government had supplies brought in from the U.S. mainland before Irma arrived.

But most of those rescued and brought to the neighboring island are living in shelters, nursing homes and government buildings, Sanders told the Takeaway. And nearly one-third of the evacuees are children who need to be accommodated in local schools.

It’s not ideal for anyone, he added.

And there’s growing concern the rest of world will forget about Barbuda, Sanders told Gray D.C.

“Next week,” Sanders said, “if some other thing happens, this can be yesterday’s news.”

Read more:

After Irma, a once-lush gem in the U.S. Virgin Islands reduced to battered wasteland

Richard Branson: Devastated Caribbean islands need a ‘Marshall Plan’ after Irma

The White House almost slashed the Coast Guard’s budget. Now Trump can’t stop praising its brand.