The relocation of Barbuda’s evacuees from the Anchorage Inn to the Nurses’ Hostel began yesterday following a brief ceremony at the site on Queen Elizabeth Highway.
Fifty-seven rooms were prepared for the 70-plus evacuees to be moved to the hostel.
Browne said it could take up to two years to rebuild the town in Barbuda, and added that the new accommodations could rival any bed and breakfast in the Caribbean. He also divulged that there are plans to later convert the newly renovated living quarters to a bed and breakfast.
“After accommodating the Barbudans, this facility will be best utilised as a bed and breakfast and as you know, with the Airbnb we can fill these facilities pretty easily. We would like to see a decentralising of property ownership in these sectors, so rather than going to these mega hotels, we want to see Antiguans and Barbudans operating these properties in order to get a piece of the tourism pie,” Brown said.
The prime minister reiterated that the estimated cost to rebuild Barbuda, as suggested by the United Nations Development Programme, stands at more than $200 million.
More than 1,500 people were displaced when Category 5-plus Hurricane Irma unleashed her wrath on the country, claiming the life of a two-year-old boy and devastating homes, schools and government buildings in its wake. The hurricane destroyed more than 90 percent of all the buildings.
“That is a daunting task. There is no way, with our best efforts that we will be able to raise those funds to rebuild the homes that have been damaged. In the interim, we have made some progress and I am told that 60 homes have been repaired so far and we are trying to ensure that we repair all the level ones and twos,” he said.
The prime minister added that within the next 90 days, it is anticipated that significant progress will be made.
Browne thanked Everette Roberts of Roberts Construction Company who expended his own resources to fix the facility.
He said the government is now working to pay down the debt owed to the local company.
“I do not necessarily see this facility as temporary accommodation. It is perhaps permanent accommodation in the sense that, and I am not trying to be disrespectful, but this is fairly better than what some of the Barbudans had in Barbuda, so they can feel comfortable to have here as their home until we rebuild. Not that we are trying to deplete your population, Arthur Nibbs [MP for Barbuda],” he said.
The move of the families from the Anchorage Inn should have begun yesterday with the remaining evacuees from Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground moving to the hostel today.