People of the British Virgin Islands, I come to you with a heavy heart after experiencing and observing the extent of devastation caused by Hurricane Irma. After consultation with the Premier I have declared a State of Emergency for the Territory. Radio and other communication channels are extremely limited and so I am reaching out with this message via any channel possible. Please do pass it on by any means accessible to you.
All of us have been affected by Irma and some more than others. Apart from the structural damage, there have sadly been reports of casualties and fatalities. I am truly heartbroken by this news. My thoughts and prayers are with each and every one of you.
I know many of you are concerned about what will happen in the short term—over the next couple of hours and days. I would like to appeal to you to remain calm and to reassure you that we are doing all that we can to assist you.
The Premier and I had already established the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC). This has had to move location to Peebles Hospital, but is still operational and will coordinate the response. Please could any public service, organisation or anyone with a truck that can offer assistance and have not yet made contact with the NEOC, do so now. Emergency services are already responding to those in need along with other humanitarian organisations.
We are working to establish communication with the Sister Islands and to reach all communities.
Additional shelters are being set up to accommodate those displaced. Please bear with us as we try to establish the most physically sound structures for this purpose. If there are individuals or organisations with buildings that could provide adequate shelter please contact the NEOC at Peebles Hospital or contact the nearest Police Station.
As you know, many roads are impassable and there is currently no access to some areas. The Minister for Communication and Works has already started coordinating efforts to clear the roads. We are aiming to provide some level of access to communities while we wait for external help. Please keep off the roads unless absolutely necessary to allow access to emergency services.
International assistance has been requested from the United Kingdom who are also consulting with other Nations. Assistance has also been sought through The International Red Cross, the Pan American Health Organization; the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and others. However, as we await their help we must continue efforts to support each other and to salvage what we can.
We are doing, and will continue to do all we can with the limited resources we have available to assist and support those in need.
So soon after experiencing such a devastating hurricane, I am sorry to have to bring your attention to another tropical system in the Atlantic. Hurricane Jose is moving towards the Leeward Islands and it is important that we monitor the progress of this.
On its current track, Jose is predicted to pass North of the Virgin Islands possibly as a category 3 Hurricane on Saturday or Sunday. If it stays north of us, we will not be significantly affected but if it comes any closer to us we will be affected and so our preparation and response efforts have to be immediate. We need your cooperation and your support to ensure that we can ramp up our operations in the event that we are impacted again.
Let us all continue to help each other however we can and continue to pray for each other.
May God bless and protect the Territory and our people.
Listen to audio version of message below. *The message must be played in 2 parts*