Hurricane Irma completely devastated one of the two major islands making up the sovereign Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda.
“The damage is complete,” lamented Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the U.S. Ronald Sanders. “For the first time in 300 years, 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.”
All of the island’s residents, approximately 1,800 people, were forced to leave their homes and flee to Antigua, which remained relatively unharmed during the storm.
“We’ve had most of the people we’ve brought over to Antigua in shelters,” Sanders explained during an interview with PRI. “We’ve tried to make living accommodations as good as humanly possible in these circumstances. Fortunately, we had planned ahead for this hurricane, and we had ordered supplies in from Miami and the United States before the hurricane hit.”
Reconstruction efforts are going to be much costly than what the islands can afford and the clean up alone could take anywhere between a few weeks to several months.
“We are a small island community — the gross domestic product of Antigua is $1 billion a year,” Sanders added. “We cannot afford to take on this responsibility by ourselves. Barbuda is not just a disaster, it’s a humanitarian crisis. We are hopeful that the international community will come to our aid, not because we’re begging for something we want, but because we’re begging for something that is needed.”
While the ambassador is concerned the world will forget about Barbuda, which is in desperate need of help, he is also worried about climate change.
“We believe climate change is here to stay — it’s a reality, despite all of the naysayers,” he concluded. “We know that these things have occurred as a result of the profligacy of the countries that are rich, and have abused the system. We, unfortunately, who contribute less than naught point naught percent of pollution of the world’s atmosphere, are the world’s greatest victims.”
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Banner/Thumbnail Credit: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri