BVI News

Prison-break kept quiet because of telecoms issue

This telecommunications pole was among the infrastructure that was damaged by Hurricane Irma.

Residents in the British Virgin Islands are being told that it was impossible for government to inform them of the massive prison break following Hurricane Irma because communications were down.

The rationale came directly from the man at the helm of government, Premier Dr D Orlando Smith.

“The radio station was not up and there was no other means of communication,” Smith said during yesterday’s sitting of the House of Assembly.

“I believe that the total loss of the communication infrastructure on the island prevented this information from being disseminated… It was only when ZBVI [radio] got up and running that the police here could inform the general public that the prisoners had [escaped],” the Premier further claimed.

Civilians in the British Virgin Islands were kept in the dark about the prison-break for days; until unofficial reports began to circulate among residents and local online and international media.

A total of 143 inmates escaped Her Majesty’s Prison when Hurricane Irma damaged sections of the facility. A number of high-risk prisoners such as those incarcerated for murder were among the escapees.

Authorities have not indicated whether an official report will be released on the so-called prison break.

Questions have been put to government on whether prison officers abandoned their posts when inmates were leaving the Balsam Ghut-based penitentiary. However, answers have not been forthcoming.

Representative for the Third Electoral District Julian Fraser yesterday chastised Premier Smith for laughing while being pressed for answers.

“It’s become a laughing matter now because 65 days after the hurricane the Premier hasn’t done an assessment to find out what took place. Did the security guard leave the compound? Did something happen? Where was the police? How did they get out in the first place? That is what I want to know. Yes, the fence probably blew down but what happened to the people?”

Fraser was then told he had exceeded his follow-up questions in relation to his initial query as to why the public was not informed about the prison-break.

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