STATEMENT BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
DR. THE HONOURABLE D. ORLANDO SMITH, OBE
PROGRESS OF FINALISING RECOVERY EFFORTS FOLLOWING TROPICAL WAVE IN THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
FRIDAY, 11th, AUGUST, 2017
My fellow Virgin Islanders and residents of this Territory:
This morning, I had the opportunity to visit different areas in Tortola as we, as a Territory, continue our recovery efforts.
I was particularly pleased to see the community banding together with great resolve and extraordinary efforts in finalising our recovery efforts; so very soon we’ll return to a state of normalcy, and I am excited about this.
Our airports and seaports have been fully functional the day following the impact of the wave. The vast majority of Government offices and businesses, including land-based accommodations and yacht charter businesses, are opened for business.
I continue to receive constant updates on the accomplishments of the teams tasked with restoring the roads, electricity, water supply and other essential services. Significant resources and equipment, both Government and private, have been deployed to address critical areas.
We have been able to assess where we are and while complete restoration efforts will take time, I assure you that steady and timely progress is being made.
I will now share with you, where we are with our progress to recovery.
As it relates to the electricity supply, the last update received from the BVI Electricity Corporation indicated that we now have 97 percent of the Territory with power and we hope to get the remaining three percent restored by Saturday.
Repairs to the water distribution network continue despite damaged water lines in several areas. Water has been restored in Brandywine Bay to McNamara, Ridge Road from Hope Hill into Cane Garden Bay via Windy Hill and Josiah's Bay. We now have 70 percent of the Territory with access to clean and potable water, and we hope to get back to full coverage within the next few weeks as different areas are being repaired.
I am pleased to say that water supply in Anegada, Jost Van Dyke, North Sound and West End is stable.
In terms of road networks, we continue to work on making the roads safe for both motorist and pedestrians once again. All of the main roads have been cleared and made accessible and we are continuing to work to restore them fully.
We have successfully tackled a number of other critical areas so that access could be restored. We expect over the next few days to be clearing drains, removing mud and debris from road sides and parking lots.
Technical drainage and landslide experts are expected to arrive to work with local teams to conduct damage assessments. We will be doing a full assessment in the coming days and weeks with engineers.
Simultaneously, we are now ramping up efforts to address secondary roads and private drive ways. We are asking persons who need additional assistance to text or WhatsApp 468-9524 so that appropriate assistance could be provided.
The Environmental Health Department's Vector Control Team are doing assessments territory-wide to determine priority areas to minimise the breeding of mosquitoes. We are asking persons to continue to assist with general clean-up regarding the removal of all water holding receptacles, such as old tires, discarded buckets, or anything that can hold water, for example, as these are potential breeding sites.
The Department of Waste Management has assessed damaged and clogged garbage bins and has started their general waste collection process.
The Department of Social Development has also been involved in conducting assessments and providing assistance in various communities.
The Department of Disaster Management (DDM) continues to coordinate and assist in the recovery and relief efforts, and has also made the necessary arrangements for the technical drainage and landslide experts to come to Tortola on Saturday to provide support. The DDM continues to monitor other weather systems and provide advice as information becomes available. In fact, earlier today they have informed us that the forecasters have increased the number of named storms and hurricanes expected during this Atlantic Hurricane Season. So while we fast track our recovery efforts we must also be prepared for any possible impacts.
Several other Government agencies have been deployed with other resources and in conjunction with private contractors and members of my Government will continue to accelerate the recovery efforts. We thank all of them for their collective and commendable efforts during this time.
I must also commend the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, the Virgin Islands Fire and Rescue Service and the Public Works Department for responding to emergency calls from the initial impacts of the tropical wave and for their ongoing support.
Relief efforts for individuals displaced and severely affected have also been arranged and assistance is being provided as quickly as possible. I understand your needs are urgent and we are working tirelessly to meet those needs. In this vein, I want to thank and commend volunteer organisations like The Lions Club, BVI Red Cross, and the Rotary Clubs in the BVI and USVI for combining efforts with us, the private sector, and members of the public to advance the recovery process.
I wish to let the people know as well that, we have also been communicating with the UK authorities and other regional partners since the storm began on Monday. The UK Ministry of Defence immediately put RFA Mounts Bay, including, its crew and assets on standby and instructed the ship to sail closer to BVI to assist if requested to do so. But given that our local authorities have made substantial progress in clearing roads and restoring power, and the significant assistance of the community, the ship was stood down and returned to its previous tasking.
My fellow Virgin Islanders and residents of this Territory, I am really pleased with the level of resilience and progress being demonstrated on the ground and we continue to make significant progress with finalising our recovery.
I ask for your continued patience and continued assistance as we return this part of paradise to its normal state.