British Virgin Islands premier pleads for long-term UK help
By Agence France Presse
The premier of the British Virgin Islands on Sunday called for the UK to provide long-term support in the wake of Hurricane Irma, which killed five people in the territory.
“We are a resilient people but this has shaken us to our core,” Premier Orlando Smith said, describing the “critical” situation after the islands were struck by the superstorm.
British military personnel have been deployed to the archipelago, with the Royal Navy on Sunday saying locals had helped a helicopter crew unload medical supplies, including vaccines.
While Smith praised efforts so far by the Marines and engineers, he called on London to craft more substantial plans for the territory, home to roughly 28,000 people and heavily reliant on tourism.
“A comprehensive economic package for reconstruction backed by the UK Government will be needed over the long-term in order to return to normalcy,” he said.
The British Virgin Islands will need “major help to rebuild people’s homes, buildings, livelihoods”, British billionaire Richard Branson, who owns Necker island, said Thursday.
Five people were killed in the territory when Irma struck the Caribbean with winds of up to 294 kilometres (185 miles) per hour. The region’s overall death toll is at least 30.
The British government held an emergency meeting on Sunday to discuss the hurricane, which Foreign Minister Boris Johnson described as a “catastrophe that’s engulfed our friends.”
Johnson said three planes would be flying to the region on Sunday to support the relief effort, while 500 troops were already in the area hit by Irma.
Fifty-three police officers were also being deployed “to help sort things out, get these wonderful places back on their feet,” Johnson said.
As well as delivering emergency shelter kits, rations and water, Britain’s ministry of defence said troops were working on re-establishing communications on the British Virgin Islands and clearing the runway to allow further aid to reach the islands. (AFP)