Good day to all the people of the Virgin Islands.
It is with great sadness that I have watched as mere hours after Hurricane Dorian spared this Territory from extensive damage, it became a catastrophic Category 5 storm before barreling into our friends to the north. On Sunday, Dorian struck Elbow Cay in the Abaco Islands in the northern Bahamas at 12:40 p.m.; made a second landfall near Marsh Habour on Great Abaco Island at 2 p.m.; and a third landfall an hour before midnight on the eastern end of Grand Bahama Island.
With maximum sustained winds speeds of 185 miles per hour, Dorian is now the strongest storm ever recorded to make landfall, tying a record set back in 1835. We have seen reports of extensive flooding and roof damage, and heard reports of casualties, injuries and communication being disrupted on the Abaco islands. I want to assure you that your concerns for those hit so hard in The Bahamas have been heard, and I share these same sentiments.
Indeed, after our own devastating experience in 2017; that we are uncomfortably familiar with the destructive potential of record-breaking hurricanes. As such, the BVI Government is standing by to offer whatever assistance we can to our brothers and sisters in The Bahamas once this terrible storm passes. We are aware that Dorian has caused closures at ports in Florida and in the Bahamas, but Tropical Shipping has advised that they will be re-opening quickly after Dorian has passed that state, and that stocks remain secure and on stand-by for shipment to the BVI and the rest of the region. The current weather conditions over the Bahamas and Florida will have impacts on our sea and air travels for the remainder of the week.
You may wonder what assistance we can give now. Through the Department of Disaster Management (DDM), the Territory partners with other territories, countries, development partners and specialised agencies through the Regional Response Mechanism coordinated by the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) to respond to and support our impacted Caribbean neighbours.
A preliminary Needs Assessment list is now emerging based on pre-impact analysis and initial damage assessment. Requests for BVI assistance have already been made by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) in the areas of logistics management, medical professionals, and HAM radio operators to support the immediate humanitarian health response. Members of staff at the DDM will also join the CDEMA team to give support to The Bahamas National Emergency Operations Centre. What is more, we have already identified a container and we will continue to work with the Regional Response Mechanism, BVI community and NGOs to provide support to the people of The Bahamas with all speed as soon as it is safe to do so.
In the meantime, please continue to keep the people of The Bahamas in your prayers, and remain faithful that together with God’s help, this sister island nation will recover and come back stronger than ever.