WORKING TOGETHER TO BE READY AND STAY READY
Good day to you the people of the Virgin Islands.
The Atlantic Hurricane Season is once again upon the region, bringing with it a heightened risk of tropical storms. This year, as has become common in recent years, the first named storm formed before the June 1 beginning of the designated season.
As the people of the Virgin Islands understand very well, the best way for us to BE READY for the hazards we face – from earthquakes and tsunamis to the pandemic and yes, storms and hurricanes, is for us to work together to STAY READY.
I am pleased to report that 2021 has seen significant accomplishments on the long road to recovery from the devastating impacts of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Firstly, and I know of great interest to our people, key Government assets such as the West End Community Centre, which serves as an emergency shelter, have been repaired to a high standard.
Many more recovery projects are in progress, including the Valarie O. Thomas Community Centre in Sea Cow’s Bay, East End Community Centre, the National Emergency Operations Centre, the renovations at the Road Town Police Station and BVI Fire and Rescue Services headquarters.
BVI families continue to benefit from the Housing Recovery Assistance Programme either through grants or low-interest loan assistance for repairs to their homes; through the construction of social homes; or through financial support to make their homes more resilient with hurricane shutters.
The road network in the Virgin Islands is also seeing significant improvements, with major projects underway at Bob’s Gas Station, Great Mountain, Little Dix Hill, and Windy Hill. These projects will bring more stable hillsides and improved drainage and will strengthen our capacity to withstand the storms that may come our way this season and in the years to come.
On the economic side, despite major setbacks presented to us by the COVID-19 pandemic, our tourism sector, particularly in the yachting and marine community, is showing signs of a strong recovery. I thank our tourism workers for their patience as the BVI balances welcoming visitors while protecting us from the very real threat of COVID-19. I look forward to even greater recovery as we continue to vaccinate our local population.
We would not like to see a loss of all the gains we have made since 2017 in the event of another hazard impact.
We have endeavoured to protect our public assets by continuing to be a part of the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility or CCRIF regional insurance programme. By providing insured nations payouts in the event of major damages cause by earthquakes, tropical cyclones and excess rainfall, CCRIF coverage means that if we should face another disaster, we will have the financial means to begin the rebuilding process right away.
I would like to call your attention to the fact that these efforts are not being done on the strength of Government alone. We are proud to work together in BVI LOVE with contractors in the private sector, with the Recovery and Development Agency, and with international partners like the Caribbean Development Bank.
The time is now for all of our BVI people to do your part to BE READY and STAY READY for what is forecast to be an active hurricane season. We pray that we would not see any storms on our shores, but we should also BE READY and STAY READY to work together and lend our strength to our friends and neighbours. King Solomon’s sage advice speaks to us in these times: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves; And a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
With that in mind, please do what you can to be a strong support to your family and community – Review and update your emergency plans and emergency supply kits as necessary; take steps to protect your property by ensuring that you have adequate structural protection and that there are not unnecessary hazards around your home or business. For those who are able, I would also encourage you to reach out to the vulnerable members of your extended family or village to see what assistance may be needed.
We cannot know exactly what storms this season may bring, but we can work together to help each other and the entire Virgin Islands to BE READY and STAY READY.
Thank you, and may God continue to bless and watch over these beautiful Virgin Islands.