While he expressed gratitude to the United States for its support following hurricanes Irma and Maria that ‘decimated’ his homeland last month, Governor of the US Virgin Islands (USVI) Kenneth Mapp announced that five people died, a ‘handful’ of others were injured seriously, and thousands lost everything during the natural disaster.
He made the comments as US President Donald Trump prepares to visit the territory this week. Vice President Mike Pence will visit St Croix in the USVI on Friday, October 6.
“Over the past month, the United States Virgin Islands has been decimated by two of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes in recorded history. Being hit by hurricanes Irma and Maria within a 12-day period was unimaginable, until it happened…”
“Despite the utter devastation brought by two category 5 hurricanes, we had only a handful of serious injuries and lost five dear souls. Each a tragedy to be sure, but nothing short of a miracle when you survey the wreckage,” Governor Mapp said at a press briefing yesterday, September 30.
He said schools and hospital services are among the areas that suffered severely.
“Thousands of our people lost everything to the 170-plus mph winds, and many remain in shelters. Our electrical system lies on the ground – destroyed; many poles snapped into pieces like matchsticks. The raging winds burned our green hillsides nearly black – stripping every leaf, and ripped massive trees out by their roots.”
“Heavy rains and storm surge caused mudslides and flooding and mutilated sections of our pristine coastline. Our territory’s only two hospitals were damaged beyond repair, and many of our schools have been heavily damaged. Children on the islands of St Thomas and St John have not yet had a chance to start school this year, and those on St Croix had one week of classes before Maria’s arrival,” the governor further explained.
“Many of our people are living in damaged structures and most of us are without running water, electricity – and without the fans, refrigeration, and air conditioners so necessary in the Caribbean during what is the hottest time of the year. Ice remains elusive and in very short supply.”
Governor Mapp lauded residents for their resilience.
“I am proud of the irrepressible spirit of the people of US Virgin Islands, who are resilient and selfless despite extremely challenging conditions. Seventy percent of our first responders lost their homes, but were in the streets working the day after each hurricane struck. Neighbours have laboured together to clear roads and share resources – many sheltering former strangers.”
We need more help!
Governor Mapp, in the meantime, thanked President Trump and the various other persons as well as organizations that have offered ‘tremendous support’ to the USVI.
But he noted that much more help is needed to address the ‘unprecedented’ destruction that spreads throughout the United States-owned territory.
“We still need a great deal of help, and I am asking all of our friends in the US Congress for help and for support so we may rebuild America’s paradise, known as the US Virgin Islands. If there was ever a time that the four million American citizens living in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico need your help, it is now!”
“We have begun the long march towards recovery. We try hard to manage the expectations of our citizens, who yearn for some sense of normalcy. We need help to rebuild our homes, our schools, our hospitals and our infrastructure – our very lives. We’ve been down this road before, but the devastation here is unprecedented.”
Governor Mapp continued: “This time we must rebuild smarter and in a more resilient manner. We will strengthen our building codes; we will work to place more of our electrical infrastructure underground; and we will build more durable schools and hospitals. But we cannot do this alone. We need help. I am confident that, with the continued assistance and prayers of our federal partners and fellow Americans, we will rebuild a better, stronger Virgin Islands.” Governor Mapp added that a fund has been established to assist disaster victims and to speed up recovery.
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