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UN: BVI recovering well but needs to improve building standards

A section of Road Town on Tortola. (BVI News photo)

The British Virgin Islands is performing exceptionally well in disaster recovery but needs to improve its building laws, the United Nations (UN) has said.

“It is clear that a significant amount of effort has been paid to improving the disaster recovery elements following the impacts from 2017.  However, the weakest area lies within mitigation where greater attention should be given to the non-structural and structural elements, more specifically – enforcement of land use planning laws, provision of incentives, and development of stronger building standards,” said UN consultant Dr Rose-Ann Smith.

Dr Smith made the remark as part of her preliminary findings of an audit she is conducting on the territory’s Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme.

The audit is being done to determine whether the BVI meets the standards set by regional and global frameworks such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

The audit is seeking to assess six key areas of the BVI’s disaster management programme. These areas are governance, education and information, training and exercises, warnings and alerts, finance and administration, and community resilience.

The UN consultant is said to have visited the territory last week to ‘make final assessments and verify information from a number of sectors in the areas of mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery’.

Her initial assessment said the BVI is ‘performing very well in a majority of the sectors’, especially in the area of recovery.

The assessment is being conducted using an audit tool developed by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, more commonly known as CDEMA.

The UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction is funding the audit.

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18 Comments

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  1. Please says:

    Total Bullsh..t the B V.I who withstand numerous storms in the past while our neighbors were in shambles have some of the strongest building culture in the world.

    These winds that passed were over 300 miles per hour enforced by a heavy barometric pressure.

    Even when maria passed it was like a breeze many folks had to shelter in houses that were alreadydamaged but withstood the pressure.

    We are tired of people coming in here who dont know the place coming in and talking BS just to collect big money.

    What the country needs is that those who are responsible for the recovery efforts to fix schools and roads and provide grants and cheap loans for repairs, to do their dam job.

    No other country could have withstand that storm as well as the BVI certainly not the prefab houses in the US. If we had lived in inferior houses the death toll would have been atleast half the populations.

    These people just want us to feel like we have a third world standard of living.

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    • Not2Sure says:

      Wow. So much wrong with that post I don’t know where to start.

      1. The UN is a global humanitarian organisation. It does not “collect big money” by issuing assessments or reports.

      2. There has never been a hurricane in recorded human history with 300 mph winds. Irma maxed out at around 180-185 mph.

      3. Anyone who claims BVI has a universally high standard of building clearly has not driven around Road Town recently. Plenty of our buildings are very strongly built. But lots of them are not.

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      • @Not2Sure says:

        Stop talking nonsense! With respect to winds, the details you have posted are the approximate ‘sustained’ wind speeds. There were gusts recorded up to 265mph in West End! The BVI went through Hugo which had gusts up to 180mph and it didn’t throw thousands of cars all over the place along with trailers, concrete buildings, mega boats etc.

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      • Correction says:

        Item 2 – Official reports note Irma sustained over 185mph OVER 24 HOURS, the max winds were higher. It is reported USVI coast guard recorded tornado wind speeds around 300mph. There were certainly F5 tornadoes in the eye.

    • Responding to "Please" says:

      The expression “BIG MONEY” is a dead give away, and in fact tells you what is going on in this country.

      There are those who are actively misrepresenting
      us to the rest of world, while at the same time appearing to be sympathetic to our plight.

      No BV Islander uses the expression “BIG MONEY”.
      “A-LOT-A-MONEY” is more like it. So, you know the rest of the story and authorship.

    • Jah Know says:

      When it comes to the service we get in the BVI, it is like a 3rd world standard.

    • Joe says:

      So if there is no need to improve the building standards…then why did the roofs of many houses blow off?

      Since you stated that the winds were extremely stronger than prior storms … then is that not an argument, as the UN suggested, for strengthening the BVI Building Codes?

      Should no improvements be done although the Hurricanes are strengthening?

      I conclude that you do not like advice from “outsiders”–even from the United Nations.

  2. Albion says:

    That is interesting. It is easy for a lot of people to just dismiss the report as “what do they know”.

    But I suspect they know a lot. They probably see a lot of different countries trying to recover from different kinds of natural disasters.

    It’s a little bit heartening when people are struggling with tough times to hear that, compared to others in similar situations, we aren’t doing too badly.

  3. true says:

    If building regulations were adhered to then Tortola would be in much better shape but lax enforcement its lax

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  4. Retired says:

    Dr. Rose-Ann Smith please tell us yourself how many days in 2017 & 2018 have you actually been in the BVI. If it’s less than 2 weeks then your opinions expressed in this BVI News article are difficult to believe.

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  5. Binks says:

    I think they’re talking about zoning and probably the way we construct our roofing and installation of doors and windows. A lot of structures were strong but the windows, doors and roofs popped out as a result of poor installation/construction. Our houses for the most part are strong but that’s useless if your doors and windows will pop out causing damage to the entire property.

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    • The Dynamics are important to find out? says:

      We have had many hurricanes before, but none like Irma and Maria, both as Cat 5, with tornadoes and as direct hits.

      The rise and sudden drop in barometric pressure with the passage of the hurricanes made the structures more vulnerable, in particular roofs, windows and doors.

      Remember there were reports of persons being “sucked” out of buildings. Eight out of Ten cars had their glass windows or windscreen and/or back glass sucked out from sudden differential change in pressure. Not from wind pressure or debris damage.

      Long ago the old-timers spoke of opening some apertures to the “lee” to alleviate build up of internal pressures.

      We need to revisit the dynamics of barometric pressures and not merely wind forces. structural fastenings, overhangs and materials, as they are all integral to effective building design to withstand major hurricanes.

    • E. Leonard says:

      @Binks, 👍👍👍. Roofs and wall openings (windows, doors, garage doors) are often weak areas in protecting buildings and reducing damages from hurricane force winds. The goal is to keep wind out; shutter doors and windows to prevent them from being damaged be flying debris and keeping the wind out. Leaving a door open on the leeward side of a house to equalize internal and external pressure is a mit; batten down the hatches.

      Loose items, ie, furniture, construction materials, equipment, debris ……etc should be secured to prevent them from becoming flying missiles, endangering life and damaging property.

      Another area of focus is establishing a continuous load path, ie, roofs connected to walls and walls to foundation; broken load path contributes to building damages. A revised and enforced building code is definitely needed.

  6. Sam the man says:

    The building standards in the BVI apart from the hospital which stood up well to the Hurricane are woeful, quality is appalling and no the recovery is not going well at all….

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  7. Bring the Brits says:

    First, strionger building standards doesn’t mean anything when the so called builders on the island can’t read the codes, can’t read the plans, plans are prepared by so called unlicensed architects and engineers. In other words the system is corrupt like the government and the ruling families. Bring British Rule back. The government is bankrupt. Bring the British back. You belongers had a chance just like Obama and failed. Now we need a Trump

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