Gov’t to hold talks to ramp up safety strategies for Barbuda

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By Latrishka Thomas

Yesterday marked two years since Category 5 Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc on the 62 square-mile island of Barbuda, leaving many residents homeless, destroying infrastructure, and claiming the life of Carl Francis Jr. who was barely two years old at the time of the super storm.

Subsequently, all residents of the sister island had to be evacuated to the mainland, Antigua.

Since then, Barbuda has been a concern for the government and people of the twin-island state. Although almost all the residents have since returned home, the island is still a long way from restoration to its pre- Hurricane Irma condition.

As such, the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda has agreed to begin discussions that will assist in mitigating harm to Barbudans in the event of another such disaster.

In this week’s post-Cabinet press briefing, Minister of Information Melford Nicholas said that in light of the looming concerns about Barbuda’s ability to withstand a second Category 5 hurricane, the government intends to table strategies with the Barbuda Council as early as next week.

“Barbuda is a very flat island and clearly there is evidence that there was a rise in sea levels during the passage of Hurricane Irma that did encroach on land. It seemed to have been more severe in the case of Abaco [in The Bahamas] but we have to address our minds to that potential outcome and how we are going to treat life and living in Barbuda in such circumstances. Do we go back for another level of evacuation and if we do, how do we treat that?” he said while referencing the damage done in The Bahamas by Hurricane Dorian.

The Cabinet is of the view that despite having shelters in place for the island, it is important to meet members of the Council to address those issues.

Nicholas said that there is also grave concern about home insurance on the island.

“For the insurance of their properties, the homeowners in Barbuda are at severe and significant risk because I don’t think the international community will be as sympathetic or as giving a second time around if it turns out that we have had the kind of catastrophic loss that we sustained in 2017, [if] we go cap in hand to the international community and say there is a $70 million, $80 million cost of restoring Barbuda’s homes and houses and they are not insured.

“So I think that continues to be a burning issue for us here in central government,” he added.

Meanwhile, another tropical disturbance appears to be heading in the direction of Antigua and Barbuda.

At last report by the Director of the Antigua and Barbuda Meteorological Services, Dale Destin, the disturbance had a 70 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone and was hovering over the Eastern Tropical North Atlantic. The public is being urged to keep monitoring these developments and make the necessary preparations ahead of time.

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