16 September 2017
People of the Virgin Islands, I come to you today with another update on the ongoing relief and response efforts in the Territory.
As you already know, temporary shelters are in place across the Territory to provide safe refuge for those forced to leave their homes after the damage caused by Hurricane Irma. I have seen people making these facilities work over the past several days.
I am happy to confirm that an additional 640 shelter kits with tarpaulin to cover homes will be arriving from our fellow citizens in the United Kingdom today, Saturday 16 September, and they will begin to be distributed to people in Road Town, Anegada and Jost van Dyke immediately. This distribution plan will continue in the coming days to ensure all people in all our islands in need of shelter have safe cover.
I want to encourage members of all communities to continue to engage with your District Representatives to provide information on what you need and to address any concerns. Food and aid distribution remains a top priority and we want to ensure that your urgent needs are addressed. The supermarkets and banks are opening.
I will also continue to engage with as many of you as possible across all communities to provide reassurance that work is being done, and that systems are in place to provide key services and relief. I will be in the first district today.
My visit to Jost van Dyke yesterday was both heartbreaking and inspiring. Like many of us, the people of Jost van Dyke suffered great losses but their resolve and ability to work together as a community is commendable.
I continue to encourage this attitude of community togetherness because it is important in advancing our recovery and that of the entire Territory.
Additional relief supplies and technical expertise continue to arrive in the Territory via our International Airport as a priority. However, we are working to open the airport to commercial flights very soon and a further update will be provided on this as soon as we can.
We are making further progress in rebuilding essential government services, with most departments now functioning. The Premier, Cabinet and I have agreed to recommence Cabinet meetings in the coming weeks. This is a vital step in ensuring effective decisions are made quickly in support of the overall relief efforts.
Your security and that of the entire community continue to remain a priority of our response. In addition to the capture of over 100 escaped prisoners from Balsum Ghut, I am happy to inform you that we are seeing a considerable reduction in looting and crime and the police and security forces are working to ensure that additional prisoners continue to be returned to the Balsum Ghut Prison.
I commend the work of all the volunteers I’ve seen helping the clean-up operations. We’ve seen heavy rainfall at times over the last few days, and there is of course the possibility that this will continue. I must also bring your attention to another weather system that is developing, which has the potential to cause tropical storm conditions with strong winds and heavy rain on Tuesday afternoon through to Wednesday. It is essential that our efforts turn to clearing the ghuts to reduce further flooding.
We continue to pray that this forecast changes, but in the meantime, I urge you to start preparing for that possibility by securing your property as much as possible, and staying off the roads to allow for essential tools to be delivered, and for the ongoing clean-up operations to continue. The curfew remains in place from 6pm to 9.am daily.
My next formal update is scheduled for Monday, September 18. However, if any new developments arise which must be brought to your attention, I will address you urgently.
May you continue to be resilient and united as we work together to build this Territory to something even greater than it was before.
Stay strong, stay resilient, stay united.
May God Bless you and this Territory.